Reunited...

Reunited...

Chapter One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was a dark and stormy night, and King Jonathan was pacing frantically in his bedchamber. He was waiting impatiently for the return of one of his most trusted subjects. He had been sending him around all day and it was getting quite late. With every passing minute, the king became more restless. He went to the window for another look. The king stifled a frustrated shout.

"Sire?" a voice inquired meekly.

"What news?" asked King Jonathan in a voice attempting to stifle his anxiousness.

"We have looked everywhere -- at least twice. She is no where to be found."

"The wedding is tomorrow!"

"So you have reminded us. However, she did state that should would never marry that man."

"So you think she ran away..."

"Her betrothed is three times her age."

"He is only forty-two. You make him sound ancient."

"You arranged to marry her off to someone who was 7 years older than you -- her father."

"I understand that a fourteen year old girl would be too young to understand the benefits of this union. However, someone was supposed to be watching her."

"Princess Angelina ordered to be left alone when she went to the bathroom. There are no exits, so we did not post double guards at the door. Perhaps that was an oversight on our behalf. She must have simply slipped past her guardian."

"You are being kind to the woman. Should we hire a great detective from England to deduce how she managed to get out of that locked room?"

"No sire. The guardian has been thoroughly interrogated. Bribery is apparent."

"But we do not know who or why?"

"That is correct. The tracks are well covered."

"And it is your contention to make me believe that a teenager of fourteen bribed her guardian to escape, snuck through this entire complex alone and undetected, made her way to the garage, stole a suncar, and just drove away."

"Well..."

"I am flattered that you think my little girl is so resourceful."

"She is very intelligent and wise for her age."

"You forgot headstrong."

"I would never..."

"Of course not. In any event, which suncar is gone?"

"Number 135 sire."

"The newest one. The one we had not put the tracker on yet. Whoever did this is quite smart indeed."

"As you will sire. What are your orders?"

"Have King Thorbjorn meet me in the reception room in half an hour, and have the trackers look for traces on which direction my daughter and her abductors have headed."

"Yes sire."

King Jonathan had spent the entire day in his bed clothes. He directed the search with his subordinates from the early hours of the day, but to no effect. His daughter was not going to be retrieved in time to be wed to King Thorbjorn of Lakeland. The agreement the two men had made would have to wait. Nevertheless, the groom must be informed of the situation. This could only be done by the king and face to face.

However, to meet with his fellow king, he would have to be made presentable. He put on a pair of charcoal-gray pinstriped pants and a dark purple shirt. Over the shirt, he put on a vest and jacket that matched his pants. Over the suit he put on a purple ermine cape. He topped off the ensemble with his jewel encrusted crown.

He went down the 17 floors of the living quarters tower. At the lowest floor, he walked the long and twisting hallways to the back of the reception room. King Thorbjorn was there waiting.

"I am sorry to keep you waiting King Thorbjorn," began King Jonathan with a warm handshake.

"It must be very important to arouse me at this hour," replied the other king.

"It is about my daughter."

"What?" asked King Thorbjorn. "Is everything all right?"

"I wish I could say that it was, but I cannot."

"What happened?"

"My daughter has disappeared."

"Disappeared?"

"We are not sure what happened, but we are looking into it."

"That is a convenient excuse to avoid this wedding ceremony."

"I assure you my good friend that this is no game and not an attempt at supplying an excuse for delay. She is gone. A suncar is missing, and we have made a thorough search of the grounds. She has not been found anywhere on the complex grounds."

"Perhaps the lovely thing does not wish to marry an old man like myself."

"There are many things that point to her being abducted rather than her just running away."

"Abducted? Have you received a ransom note?"

"We have not, but there are plenty of individuals who would be happy if this alliance falls through."

"That is certainly true."

"Never fear. We have trackers looking for clues to her whereabouts. This wedding will occur as soon as she is located."

"I am afraid that is not good enough," replied King Thorbjorn with a heavy sigh. "I went through a great deal of trouble to get here on this day, and I shall not wait around for you to track down the runaway bride. I have many things that need my attention."

"But..."

"I am afraid that my mind is made up in this matter. I will follow through with my original wedding plans."

"I am sorry to hear that."

"As am I. Your daughter is by far the most beautiful woman in the land. Needless to say, that is not enough of a reason for me to delay a moment longer. I must return home and attend to my affairs."

"Princess Olivia is a fair maiden in her own right."

"She will be a barer of children which is a fine thing, but the future queen cannot compare to the lovely Angelina. However, I will make an offer that you may find appealing."

"What is it?"

"I will grant the treaty lands, which were to be given to you, as a wedding gift to your daughter if she marries my son Prince William."

"That is a very generous offer."

"I have an ulterior motive. There is a prophesy in my kingdom that claims a young prince who rescues the fairest maiden in the land will unite the kingdoms of Morica. I must let William determine if this is his destiny."

"If the four kingdoms of Morica were united, they would be a very powerful force indeed. I am not sure how I feel about such an outcome."

"Nevertheless, my son will be tasked with finding the princess. It will happen with or without your permission."

"We will do what we can to aid Prince William in his quest."

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Reunited...

Chapter Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The monarchs of Lakeland had always been an ambitious bunch. King Thorbjorn's reign had been no exception. He was always looking at ways to increase the size of his kingdom. In fact, in the early part of his reign, he was at war with one of his neighbors. This seemed to be the way it was for them and they thought of no other way to expand their territory.

Lakeland had once been a smallish kingdom with lakes abound. It had a very large lake at its eastern border, and thousands of small lakes throughout the territory. Freshwater fish was an excellent moneymaker for them.

They also had some agricultural trade. However, being a northern territory, their growing season was very short. The farmers had to grow things that would produce quickly or they would not get anything. Needless to say, winters were harsh.

The first of King Thorbjorn's line was bent on expanding the territory. The kingdoms to the south were way too powerful for the small kingdom; thus, they warred with their northern neighbors.

Soon, they conquered all the lands to the northwest that did not belong to the Calmondak kingdom. This gave them access to saltwater fish as they gained access to the western ocean. Lakeland grew even more wealthy on the fish trade.

However, it was not enough. Thus, the kings began gradually pushing southward. They eventually expanded down to the southern gulf. There was lots of rich farmland in this region. Not to mention, there was access to more fishing.

During King Thorbjorn's reign, he attempted to push farther east. However, most of his borders were either lakes or rivers. Thus, there were some natural protections for his neighbors.

Nonetheless, King Thorbjorn was determined to expand his realm. However, he did not wish to upset his neighbor to the west. Thus, to assure King Jonathan that he was not interested in his lands, King Thorbjorn sent his son Prince William to stay in Calmondak. Hence, Prince William and Princess Angelina had played together in their youth.

King Thorbjorn attacked his neighbor in the gap between the great river and one of the large lakes. At first, he had some success. His plan caught his neighbor completely off guard. The army advanced to a river the southern border river of that kingdom.

However, he was in a difficult position, as he could advance no further. He attempted to negotiate a peace, but was unsuccessful. Eventually the easterners rallied and pushed him back. His five years of war came to nothing except strained relations.

Prince William was recalled, and the warring king considered attacking King Jonathan when his army had regained its strength. This would have been foolish with the eastern neighbors looking for a weakness. Hence, King Thorbjorn was forced to strengthen his ties with the west.

When King Thorbjorn's wife died, a new queen was needed. At first, he looked to the east. It would appease his eastern neighbors to wed one of their daughters, but he saw the beauty of Princess Angelina. Therefore, the succession of land idea was declared. This would cement the alliance of Lakeland and Calmondak, and King Thorbjorn could cast his eyes eastward without worry.

With the postponement of the wedding, the Lakeland King would wed a daughter of the east. This would force the king to set his sites elsewhere for land acquisition. It was not an ideal situation, but the king would cope. However, he still wished for a secure western border. Thus, granting Princess Angelina and his son the land was a strategic move.

There is also the prophecy to consider. The Lakeland's residents have always been one for prophecy. There had been a long standing one where a prince would rescue and princess and unite all of Morica. With this, the idea of the treaty lands was even more logical in the mind of the king. It would give an incentive to Prince William and allow King Jonathan to go along. However, the king should not have mentioned the prophecy to his fellow king, but what was done was done.

Map of Calmondak and Lakeland

Early the next morning, Prince William met with King Jonathan's trackers. He looked at the signs the sun car left. It was obvious that the car went west.

"We think they are going northwest into the lands of Princess Angelina's mother," stated one of the trackers.

"Is there any reason to think she was taken by her kinsmen?" asked Prince William.

"The forbidden lands are very dangerous," replied the tracker. "Thus, it seems to reason that they would not head there. Thus, perhaps her kin are involved."

"Are the forbidden lands that treacherous?"

"No one has come back from an exploration of the forbidden lands. That is good enough for me."

"Would that not make an excellent place to hide?"

"Being killed is no way to hide."

"How bad can it be?"

"First off, there is no water to be found there. The fugitives did not steal any water from our stores, nor did they take any water storage vessels. Furthermore, there are the most poisonous insects and snakes living there. It is an awful place."

"If no one has survived a trip there, then how do you know this?"

"I know from the old time reports before the water wars. Do not treat me like some ignorant kid young man. I have been around."

"I was just asking..."

"It looks like they took the ancient trail west," stated the tracker. "We would have to follow the trail to know exactly where they went. Nevertheless, that would be an arduous task. Thus, we have scouts looking out for them in the northwest. We expect to find her soon."

"I think I am going to follow her trail," replied Prince William.

"Good luck," replied the tracker. "It will be a long and hard trail to follow. We'll probably have her before you reach the trail split."

Prince William did not know if the tracker was telling the truth, or trying to lead him astray. It did make sense that whoever took the princess would avoid the Forbidden Zone, but it also made sense to hide there. What dangers did this place have? Was it just a legend to scare away strangers? What secrets did it hide? There were enough questions to keep him going. Besides, being king over all of Morica was very tempting situation.

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Reunited...

Chapter Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

King Jonathan was called the "Cattle King" by the neighboring kingdoms. His lands were very dry, but they were highly suited to raising livestock. He had vast herds of bison grazing his lands. Deer, moose, and wild cow also thrived there. Much of the wild game on his lands was hunted for sport in his kingdom. He got his power and influence from the wealth he obtained in the meat trade.

After the water wars of Calmondak's southern neighbors, King Jonathan's father expanded the kingdom farther south. This land was also arid, but it too was suitable to livestock grazing. The people working these lands fit right in to how their neighbors to the north ran things.

However, there was a large desert in the southwestern portion of these southern kingdoms. With the irrigation practices of the former kingdoms -- and before -- the Great Monoran Desert had grown substantially. The aquifer had nearly vanished allowing the desert to expand.

This desert was a dangerous and foreboding place where numerous explorers had never returned. It was hot and dry. Very little could survive there. After an exploratory party entered the desert and did not return, King Jonathan forbade anyone from entering. It was labeled the "Forbidden Zone."

When King Jonathan was a fairly young man, he wed Princess Marcellina. With the marriage and its arrangements, the Calmondak kingdom gained some timberland and some orchards in the northwest. There were also some fine vineyards that complemented the ones in Calmondak. Thus, King Jonathan could slightly diversify where his wealth was being generated.

Other than from the vines and from fruit trees, very little food could be grown in Calmondak without irrigation. It was this aridness that resulted in the water wars of these southern kingdoms. The lack of water had caused destruction of the previous civilization living on the land as well. It was simply not something with which King Jonathan wanted to get involved. Thus, he would continue to import most of his required grains from Lakeland.

The acquisition of the treaty land would not change this. However, it would extend Calmondak's border to the Misery River to the west. This would be more preferable to the current border with the Lakeland Kingdom. This border was determined more arbitrarily when one of the southern kingdom negotiated for it. With the river as the border, it would prevent any disputes over land rights. In this way, friendly trade would continue between the neighbors.

Furthermore, the land of this treaty was mostly similar to the much of the southern lands that were already part of Calmondak. There was a small mountain range and some swamps, but a majority of the land was similar. Most of it could be used as grazing lands. The big difference was that it also gave Calmondak access to an oceanic gulf which could also open up trade with more eastern kingdoms.

Nonetheless, all of this was for not with Princess Angelina's disappearance. A new treaty was discussed giving Prince William and Princess Angelina control over the land should they marry. However, it would likely revert to Lakeland should anything happen to the pair. Further, there was the prophecy proclaimed by King Thorbjorn.

While King Jonathan was completely willing to allow Prince William to search for his daughter, the marriage of the pair would be considered at another time. The benefits of this union would be far less than the previous arrangement. Further, he did not particularly believe in prophecies, so anyone looking for his daughter would be welcome.

Princess Angelina was not an only child. She had an older brother, Prince James. He was the heir to the Calmondak throne. He was a tall statuesque young man. He was also quite striking in appearance. However, like Princess Angelina, he took after his mother more than his father. Thus, many thought him a bit effeminate. Of this, Princess Angelina took much offense.

There was talk in some circles that Princess Angelina was the much stronger of the pair. She was much more suited to be heir to the throne than the -- in their opinion -- much weaker prince. While the princess would agree that she was stronger, again she took offense to the sentiment.

The two children were educated along side each other. While there was a few years difference in their ages, Angelina did act much more mature for her age. Further, she had a voracious appetite for learning. She just did not seem to be able to get enough.

Perhaps this was the big difference between the two. Prince James accepted his role in the scheme of things, but Princess Angelina felt that there was always something that could be done. She was not afraid to take action. She was not afraid to step outside her role as princess and see the world differently. This made her appear strong and made James appear weak.

The two siblings were quite close due to their situation. In fact, they had spent many hours discussing the upcoming wedding. However, Prince James did not know what the princess could or would do about stopping the upcoming nuptials.

She had asked Prince James about driving the suncars. He gave her a few pointers and lessons, but he did not think she would be able to drive away by herself. He felt that she would need assistance. Thus, he was under the impression that she had been abducted.

He had been questioned thoroughly. It was apparent that despite his confession of teacher her the rudiments of the sun car, he did not know where she was. In fact, because they were very close, if she had run away, she may have wanted him to not know where she was going. Thus, he was in the dark about the events of the day of her disappearance.

Prince William of Lakeland asked Prince James some questions about the Forbidden Zone and if she knew anything about it. Prince James told him what he told everyone.

"It is the most dangerous place in Calmondak, and no one would go there on purpose. Certainly my sister knows that! If she ran away, she certainly would not head there!"

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Reunited...

Chapter Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William had spoken to most of King Jonathan's staff. They were fairly evenly split on whether Princess Angelina ran away or whether she was abducted. However, they were almost unanimous on their belief that no one would go purposely into the Forbidden Zone.

Nonetheless, Prince William would follow the trail where it led. Thus, if it went into this foreboding area, he would need to be prepared for it. Therefore, he put several water containers into his suncar as he set off following Princess Angelina's trail.

The ancient roadway was quite a bit west of the castle complex. It was once a busy north/south road for travelers; however, now it was just an little used trail. Prince William double checked the track he was following. Both he and King Jonathan's trackers concluded that the suncar headed south. He checked the trail and was certain that is the direction to go.

This ancient road south led to the ruins of a city. It was once a major metropolitan area, but it was now little more than rubble. The many conflicts hit this mountain city hard. What made it an excellent place for a city also made it a place where people fought. This was the way of many of the old cities.

Because of its location, there were several roads which the ancients had constructed that led into and out of this major metropolitan area. These roads went off in all directions. Anyone going this direction would be difficult to track. Once again, it was an excellent choice to hide the destination of any traveling vehicle.

While this ancient city was about an hour from King Jonathan's residential complex by suncar, it was going to take Prince William a while to determine the exact path. Prince William's suncar had little difficulty traveling over the ancient roads. That is, until it got nearer to the ruined city. The battles had taken their toll on these roads.

Nonetheless, it made it somewhat easier to track. There were places where there was debris in the roads where tire tracks could be seen. There were broken plants. There were many clues to follow. However, it was a time consuming task for Prince William. There could be other vehicles traveling along this route.

As he suspected, the trail led to the west. This did not mean that they were headed directly into the Forbidden Zone. The ancient road headed to the west through the mountains and towards the Monoran desert. However, the ancient road had a split where a suncar could head north, continue west, or even loop back. It was clear to Prince William that the route chosen was very good one for concealing the final destination.

However, now that Prince William knew that the trail headed west, it would be easier to track. With the mountainous terrain, there were few options until the next split. Thus, once he left the ruined city, he could make pretty good time.

The tracking took its toll on Prince William, and he camped at one of the few intersections in the mountains for the night. He felt he was making good time, and hoped to reach the next major intersection of the ancient roadway by midday. Nevertheless, it was still going to take him a while to catch up with Princess Angelina at this rate. Although, it would take even longer if he missed her trail. Thus, he was being very methodical.

In any event, if King Jonathan's trackers were to be believed, they would have the Princess back before he reached the next split in the road. It would be at this point when Prince William would know for certain if the suncar went into the forbidden area. If it did, then the Princess could be in great distress.

With first light, Prince William was back on the trail. He could tell he was getting closer to the desert as it was becoming increasingly dry. He did cross a minor trickle of a river, and he wondered if there were more like it.

The sun was hot and high in the sky when he reached the crossroads. A blockade had been constructed to prevent southward travel. However, it had been removed. Thus, it was clear to Prince William that the Princess was in the Forbidden Zone.

He double and triple checked the trail, but it was unmistakable. The suncar clearly entered the forbidden area. Thus, the prince had no choice but to follow the track. He turned his suncar south and headed into the hot desert.

The road was rough. Sections of the road had seen great battles. Some of the ancient attack vehicles still sat there slowly being covered in sand. They were once great metal beasts, but now just hunks of scrap. Sand slowly wearing them smooth in places and rough in others.

The track he was following was clear in the sand. He could easily follow it as it led into the desert. So few had come this way, that the track looked fresh even though it could have been days or even weeks old. He thought he would catch up to the Princess in no time.

Suddenly, a huge cloud of sand blew across his path. The sand storm blocked out the sun, and his suncar lost power. The sand blasted against the side of his car. He could almost feel the sand tearing the solar panels off the car. His car sat there motionless as the sand ripped across his path. The roar of the sand and wind was almost deafening.

Just as suddenly as it started, it stopped. The roar ceased and all was silent again. The sun returned. Prince William let out a huge sigh. He took a small drink of water from his stores and stepped out of his car.

Some of the panels were damaged, but he quickly repaired them. His car had survived with little damage. Then he realized it. The trail he was following was gone. The wind had erased the easy trail that had led him to this spot. What was he going to do next? The Forbidden Zone was beginning to live up to its name.

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Reunited...

Chapter Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William stood there looking at the foreboding road ahead. The trail he was following was gone. He hoped he could pick it up again, but it did not appear too likely. The fierce sandstorm, while it did not last long, had wide-ranging effects. There was no for him to know where the princess was without being able to follow her trail.

The prince decided to follow the ancient road slowly. If there were signs, he did not wish to miss them. Whoever was driving the princess's suncar could have left the old road at any time, but the road was all the prince had. Thus, he pushed on.

With the slow going, Prince William could see how someone could get lost out here. The sand storm he had just experienced was small, he could imagine them being much larger and burying a suncar in sand. Further, there was the heat and the dryness. The thought of it made him thirsty, so he stopped and drank from his water reserves.

He took a moment to look closely for signs, but there were none. However, he did notice something odd. He got out to investigate. Out of a sand dune, there was a large flat reflecting panel. He looked around and he saw dozens. Looking some more there were hundreds. They were semi-concealed in the dunes.

The wind picked up a little bit and he rushed back to his suncar. He took another drink, and continued forward on the ancient road. The sand raced across his car, but he managed to keep going. There was not the same amount of sand in this round. However, if there was a track to follow here, it would have been enough to erase it.

The temperature outside the suncar was soaring. Prince William fiddled with the interior cooling system. The power demand of the suncar was at its maximum. This would limit his speed, but more importantly, another sand storm could stop him. The Forbidden Zone was becoming clear to him. It was clearly a very dangerous place. Any number of things could mean life and death. He was grateful he brought water, but began wondering if it were enough.

Slowly, he continued following the ancient road. It was a desolate area, yet strangely beautiful. There were colorful mesas in the distance. However, he had gone most of the day without seeing anything move. It was as if the land were a void of life. He thought that perhaps that changed at night out of the heat of the day.

The mesas soon gave way to flat desert. He passed the ruins of some small towns that once existed in the desert -- victims of the water wars. He noticed bridges over now dry river beds. Water once flowed in the stretch of desert. The prince wondered how long ago the water flowed.

He continued driving looking for the trail. He did not see any trace of the suncar's tracks. It could have come this way, but it might not have. Slowly he went, and it was getting late in the day. It was clear that he would have to spend the night in the desert. Thus, he began looking for a place to stop. Once the sun went down, his suncar would stop. Hence, he looked for a place protected from the wind.

There was an intersecting road where it appeared to be a spot where some people had lived long ago. He pulled onto a frontage road and drove a short distance. There was an ancient concrete building still standing there. He parked close to it to protect his car from the wind and sand. It looked like an long deserted saloon.

Prince William got out of his car and looked around. A short distance away, there was a small trickle of a very muddy river. It appeared that it would dry up at the peak of the dry season. In fact, there was a wash that would flow into this small river during storms. Nonetheless, there was enough water around to support a few scraggly trees. The rest of the terrain was scrub brush and tumbleweeds.

It was closing in on dusk, and it was still hot. The prince had a decision to make. He had gone quite a distance with no sign of the Princess's trail. Should he continue following the ancient road? Should he give up? How well his night went was going to determine his course of action. If he feared for his life, he would turn back. However, if the night passed with little incident, he decided he would follow the road further.

The prince gathered some brush to build a fire. The material he gathered was so dry he thought it might catch fire in his hands. He dug a small pit in the sand and placed some of the material into it. He gathered enough material to have the fire go all night because he did not want to wander off in the dark to obtain more.

While gather the material for the fire, Prince William noticed more of the reflecting panels. He thought there must be thousands of them scattered throughout the desert. He wondered who had put them there. Did they belong to the ancients? Were they remnants of a once great society? Did they survive the water wars? What did they do?

These fleeting thoughts went through his head, but his thoughts turned to food and survival. He thought the fire would keep away any dangerous night visitors. He thought he might hunt for some food, but he then thought better of it. He had enough provisions to last a few days. There was no need to take any risks at this point in his journey.

Just as the last bit of sun sank below the horizon, he lit his fire. He was amazed at the number of stars he could see. It was a dark clear night. He was sure his fire could be visible for miles, and he heard some howling animals in the distance. At night, the desert did come alive.

He settled down and got some sleep. It was not a restful sleep as he wanted to keep the fire alight. He was about to put some more fuel on the fire, but he marveled at the sky and the darkness. It is then that he saw the lights in the distance. Something was going on in the Forbidden Zone. Was there a city off in the distance? The area was supposed to be dead. What were the source of those lights? He would investigate when the sun came up.

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Reunited...

Chapter Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Once Prince William saw the lights shining in the night, he lost the ability to sleep. His curiosity kept him awake. His mind would not let it go. He just sat and wondered. It was odd to see evidence of life in a so-called lifeless zone. The possibilities raced in his mind. He just could not figure it out.

As the dawn broke, the distant lights faded. It was only in the darkness that the illumination was visible that far off. Furthermore, Prince William's curiosity overrode his quest. After all, it appeared that the ancient road led directly towards the lights. Further, he did not have a trail to follow the Princess. Thus, he was going to investigate where the lights originated.

He put out his fire and gathered his things. He got in his suncar and headed off on the old road. He no longer worried about the trail; he just went as fast as his car could go. Although it was the cool part of the day, it was still hot. Nonetheless, he turned off the car's cooling system to increase his speed.

As he sped along, he saw some barricades along the side of the road. It appeared that there were still roadblocks along this road. However, they were moved to the side. Thus, he raced on past. Someone else had come this way. Perhaps, he thought, it was the Princess and her suncar.

The heat began putting its mirages upon the surface of the road he was traveling. After a short distance, there were still no signs of a city up ahead. It was a flat and desolate road. The Prince began to wonder if what he had seen during the night was a mirage. Did he dream it? Was he following shadows? Was it just his mind playing tricks upon him?

The doubts crept into his mind, but he kept going. He had no leads to the Princess, so this gave him a task to complete. He had a purpose. On the other hand, it could be leading him away from his quarry. However, his curiosity had to be satisfied. He could make it back to his camp, and only lose the time he wasted on this particular adventure.

As fast as the suncar could go, Prince William drove along the road to the southwest. There were more warnings moved away from the road. Someone had definitely come this way recently and moved the roadblocks. The signs read Danger and Keep Out, but onward the Prince drove. After all, these signs no longer blocked the road. Thus, perhaps they no longer applied.

After about an hour and a half of driving, a few rather tall buildings appeared in front of him. These were surprisingly in good shape for an ancient city. Most of the ancient cities in the area did not survive intact during the water wars. Also, most of the tall buildings were destroyed in the fighting. From this distance, this city appeared to have escaped from the much of the destruction.

Prince William thought that perhaps the once great city was abandoned, but it still had access to power. Thus, it would illuminate because no one shut off the electricity to the buildings. With it being in the forbidden zone, no one had rectified the situation. It would also explain the reflecting panels in the desert. They could power such a city.

In his car, the Prince was getting quite warm. Thus, he slowed his car down and enabled the interior cooling system. After a brief drive, he pulled over to get a good drink from his water reserves. He could see the city clearly from his vantage point. It was an ancient metropolitan area in the midst of a very foreboding desert.

The old city had many opulent buildings. There were several high-rise buildings. Each uniquely and elaborately constructed. These structures showed amazing architecture. It was different than most of the ancient cities that Prince William had encountered. This was clearly a town of wealth.

As he got closer, he could see that the city was likely the source of the lights. Many of the buildings were still lit in the height of the morning. At the height of this city's life, this city was likely resplendent in the night. It could have been a city of lights.

Just off the ancient road, there were more and more opulent buildings. However, there were no exits. All of the ancient intersections were blocked. Prince William was funneled into the depths of the ancient city. There was no way off the ancient road except the way he had come, or some place deeper in the city. He drove on.

As he got deeper into the city, he began seeing evidence of activity. He would see things move out of the corner of his eyes. He was not sure if they were people or vehicles or something else. Nevertheless, the farther he got into the city the more he observed such movements.

Eventually, he was forced to stop. The way forward was completely blocked. When he came to a complete stop, a gate closed behind him. He was trapped. Some people in masks and black jumpsuits jump out and surround his car.

With their weapons drawn, they told the prince to get out of his car.

"I am Prince William Thorbjornson of Lakeland," the Prince explained as he exited his car with his hands in the air.

"What part of Forbidden Zone did you not understand?" asked one of the armed individuals.

"I demand to be taken to see the ambassador," Prince William stated firmly.

"You are not even heir to the throne," laughed the black clan man. "The king might not even pay to get you back."

"The ambassador..."

"Forbidden Zone..."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"As far as anyone is concerned, the moment you entered this restricted area, you died. Thus, your claims of royalty and honor and privilege mean absolutely nothing here."

"But..."

"Come with me and keep quiet," demanded the man as he brandished his weapon.

The Prince complied.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The individuals in the black jumpsuits escorted Prince William across an abandoned stretch of road that ran parallel to the ancient highway. After crossing the frontage road, the group led the prince into one of the nearby buildings. It looked like an ancient hotel of some sort. It had a brick and stone facade. It was in surprisingly good shape for a building of the ancients.

There were similar buildings nearby, and they all looked in usable shape. It looked like this particular area was untouched by the conflicts that destroyed much of the ancient world. The luxury was more evident to the Prince as he entered the lobby of the structure. The opulence of the ancient structure was still intact. It could still be used as a luxury hotel.

The team quickly escorted the Prince into a secure room just off the main lobby. They put him in the room, closed and locked the door, and left him alone. It was a relatively small room with a table and four chairs in the center. Along one wall, there was a mirror. There were cameras in the corners pointed in various directions. It did not appear that there were any section of the room not covered by the cameras. The Prince wondered if they still functioned. He walked around and took a closer look at them.

When he was finished exploring the room, he sat in one of the chairs and waited. He waited. He waited some more. He got up and took a few more laps around the room. He sat again and waited. He had been there for quite a long time and no one had been to see him. He was wondering if they had forgotten him. He checked the door again, and it was still locked. The only thing he could do was wait, and that is what he was doing.

The Prince sat in one of the chairs and put his feet on the table. He closed his eyes and began to drift off. The door suddenly opened, and he nearly fell back. In walked a stunning young woman. She was dressed all in white. Prince William just stared with his mouth agape.

"What brings you to the Forbidden Zone," a sultry voice asked.

"Uuuuummmmm," replied the Prince.

"Do I have to ask a second time?" the voice asked more instantly.

"I am on a mission," replied the Prince suppressing a squeak in his voice. "I came looking for Princess Angelina of Calmondak."

"Trying to rescue a damsel in distress?" the young woman asked with a chuckle.

"Uh," the Prince said turning slightly red. "Something like that."

"How gallant!"

"A prophecy states that if I return her to her family, I will be richly rewarded."

"That sounds like something King Thorbjorn would cook up."

"What?"

"What better way to motivate some lesser member of his court to take on a very dangerous mission than promise them great riches. It seems pretty transparent to me."

"Lesser? I am Prince William Thorbjornson of Lakeland!"

"Billy?" asked the stunning young woman. "It has been a long time."

"What?" asked the stunned Prince. "Who are you?"

"I am your quarry."

"What?"

"I am Angelina. It has not been that many years."

"It is just..." stumbled the Prince. "You look beyond your years."

"What does that mean?" asked the Princess.

"Um -- er," stuttered the Prince. "I know of no fourteen year old as stunning as you."

"Your flattery will not gain you favor with me."

"Huh? I apologize. I meant, it is just that I did not expect you."

"Why is that?"

"Your father made it out that you had been kidnapped."

"My father is often far less than truthful."

"Do you mean to tell me he knows you are here?"

"Certainly not! I came here of my own accord."

"Then what?"

"The Forbidden Zone is not as was described."

"Much of it is desolate."

"With this sparkling jewel in its midst," finished the Princess spanning her arms wide. "The concept of the Forbidden Zone was designed to keep people out that he did not wish to see this place. However, his reasons for keeping people out were different than the ones he stated."

"It is not a place of death?"

"Oh! it certainly is to the uninvited. The desert is a very dangerous place."

"The uninvited?"

"Those that are invited here do not find it so dangerous. In fact, they enjoy the luxuries this ancient city offers."

"I am confused. Why would anyone invite others into some forbidden zone?"

"To these special invited guests, it is not the Forbidden Zone but more of an oasis -- a getaway -- a special place away from it all."

"Who are these special guests?"

"Mostly rich outlanders with whom my father wishes to do business."

"Outlanders?"

"Your father has neglected your education greatly. Outlanders are people who do not live in Morica. They live across the sea."

"Why would your father wish to do business with them?"

"They have more to offer than the Kingdom's of Morica -- that is why."

"Such as?"

"Now you are just playing the fool. It is good that you are dead."

"What? Dead? Wait..."

"You have entered the Forbidden Zone. You are dead. You shall not return home to tell of the things you have learned. You are now far too dangerous."

"But -- I am a Prince..."

"You know of our oasis, our foreign investments, and our new found power base. You know too much."

"That is it? I am simply cast off? So what is to become of me? Are you really going to kill me?"

"I do not see any reason to kill you, but you cannot leave this city. What happens here -- stays here."

"I am a prisoner then."

"That is essentially true. One of the advantages of this place is that you need certain technologies to get -- well -- anywhere."

"You are saying that without my suncar, I would die in the desert."

"Or similar device. At the very least, you would need lots of water."

"And a head start."

"A rather sizeable head start if we decided to go after you. The guards could easily catch up to you if we wished them to."

"So, I am dead to the world, but a prisoner here."

"You have the essence of your situation down pretty well."

"Is there anything that can change that?"

"A shift in the Morica power structure may be of a benefit to you."

"A shift? How do you mean?"

"You could be a valuable -- bargaining chip -- to a few parties."

"I take back what I said."

"What is that?"

"You are not beyond your years in looks -- you are beyond your years in everything."

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Reunited...

Chapter Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William was in a small interrogation room with the stunning fourteen-year-old Princess. They sat across each other at the central table in plain wooden chairs. The Prince was attempting to determine his standing as Princess Angelina had told him that he was dead.

"How did you become so ruthless?" asked Prince William.

"Ruthless?" asked the Princess. "I was not the one who attempted to sell me to your father for a paltry stretch of land. To me -- that is ruthless. What I am doing is self-preservation."

"Yet you will let me die here."

"While that may be an eventuality, I do not think it will actually occur."

"Why is that?"

"You could be valuable to me -- if I choose to act ruthlessly."

"What does that mean?"

"It means you may get the chance to die somewhere else," the Princess laughed.

"That is not very funny," sulked the Prince.

"It is, but you lack perspective to have a sense of humor about such things."

"Oh! Very funny," sneered the Prince. "So, what happens now?"

"I have been exploring the resources of the city, and you will be free to do the same."

"What kind of resources?"

"There is an ancient library here. Fascinating stuff."

"You have been reading?"

"Education is the surest way to have a say in your future."

"That is crazy!"

"Oh yeah? You were convinced of this Prophecy of yours. With a little manipulation, you wandered into the Forbidden Zone at your own peril. For what purpose? To get the chance to marry someone that someone else told you would be worthy of you?"

"What is your point?"

"If you had enough knowledge, you would know that prophecy is bunk. It is just a tool to manipulate."

"Be that as it may, I was taking a chance to get land to call my own."

"And, what of this land? It is on the gulf coast. Raiders regularly besiege the coast and pirates are constantly on patrol along its shores. It is not the jewel that your father makes it out to be."

"But, it would be my land, which is important to someone who is not the heir to the kingdom."

"Well, it would be your until someone took it away from you. You would need to recruit a navy to keep it. This would be quite an expensive undertaking -- if you were smart enough to pursue it."

"But your father was willing to take the land."

"As I have said, my father has been less than truthful."

"Your father could deal with the raiders and pirates?"

"My father has assembled quite a navy."

"He has?"

"It was a requirement for doing business across the sea. He has allied himself with some powerful naval powers."

"No one in Morica knows of this," responded Prince William. "Do they?"

"No one -- except those closest to my father, and those of us in Forbidden Zone. It is important to him that it stays that way."

"Another reason I must stay here."

"Your curiosity gets you in deeper and deeper. Nonetheless, this is not such a bad place. Lots of things to do and lots to learn."

"Paradise."

"Well, I would not go that far, but it is pretty nice. No snow. Lots of sunshine. Unfortunately, it also gets pretty darn hot outside, but the cooling systems of the buildings are quite remarkable."

"Cooling on this scale is remarkable. How do the accomplish this?"

"That is a good question. You should look it up in the library."

"Very funny."

"Knowledge is power. I must take my leave of you now. You are free to wander about, but please try not to cause any trouble. I would hate to have to lock you up -- or worse."

"Yes ma'am," replied the Prince almost saluting.

"When I am ready to leave this place, I will do my best to get you out of here. That is, if you still wish it by then."

Princess Angelina gracefully arose from the chair in which she was sitting and walked to the door. It opened and she said a few words to the guard. He nodded and she walked off.

Prince William sat at the table for a few moments. He considered his options. He was not sure what he was going to do. For now, he did decide that he would not cause any trouble. After pondering things for a while, he arose and walked to the door. The guard let him out, but followed behind him.

The Prince wandered about the building. It was an ancient hotel. He walked into a great hall where there were vast numbers of people sitting at these strange electronic machines. There was a strange language drifting across the room. The Prince did not recognize it as one of the languages spoken in Morica. These must have been people from across the sea.

The people sitting at these buzzing and whirring machines had an exotic air to them. They did not look that different from some of the groups living in his kingdom, but there was something different from them. As he walked passed watching them, they did not look up from the flashing machines in which they were operating.

The Prince wondered what they were doing. It must have been some sort of local entertainment because screams of excitement would break out every now and then. He walked up to a machine but was unable to make it work. One of the visitors attempted to explain it to him, but he did not comprehend. He just continued to explore this unusual place with the guard in tow.

He wandered about the noisy great hall for a while watching the people play their games. It did his heart good to see the people enjoying themselves so greatly. If he learned about the game, perhaps he too would have fun here. However, that would have to wait for another time. For now, he was just exploring the surroundings.

Eventually, he exited the great hall and found himself in the lobby once more. There were people on the move up and down in the elevators. He marveled at the technologies the ancients had. He looked at the ancient art on the walls. It was quite an opulent place. He stood in awe of it all with his guard at his side.

He decided that he would see what else the city had to offer. Thus, he decided to leave this hotel. He walked out the front door and was blasted by a wave of intense heat. The midday sun was high overhead and baking the entire place with an intense heat. Because of this, the area outside was deserted. His guard remained inside. Thus, he could explore the exterior on his own. However, the heat was so immense that he would not be able to stay outside long. Thus, he headed for the nearest building to explore it.

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Reunited...

Chapter Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

After taking her leave of Prince William, Princess Angelina immediately left the hotel where she met him. In the intense daylight heat, she began walking the several blocks towards her living quarters. There was not a lot she could do to protect herself from the heat. The stifling sun beat down upon her from the cloudless sky.

After several blocks, she approached the single story brownstone building she called home. It was an ancient building built in the southwestern style. The size of the building showed the former wealth of the town. The building had plenty of space to hold the resources of the ancient city. It was not nearly as opulent as the hotels, but after all, it was a library.

The Princess set up her living quarters in one of the rooms of this ancient structure. She had the cooling system started, so she would not have to live in the intense heat. Although she could have taken any room in one of the many hotels, she wished to be close to the books. It was the books that were of most interest to her. However, she was also interested in thee strange machines labeled internet. She wanted to know more about these internets.

She was hoping to find information about the machines in the books she had collected. These machines were scattered throughout the library, so she had guessed that they may give her access to even more information. However, how was someone supposed to access this information? That was something she simply did not know.

Princess Angelina entered her room and sat next to a pile of books. She had spent the last several weeks simply attempting to absorb as much information that the books had to offer. The ancient library had information on so much of the ancient civilization that created this city. She hardly slept because she was so engrossed in her reading.

None of the information she was reading was available in her father's library. Perhaps there was purpose for that. She had discovered that the women of the ancients had power. They could participate in ruling the citizenry. Perhaps the king removed this information to prevent the women from rising in revolt. After all, the men of Morica used the women as bargaining chips. Marriage was for alliance and the leaders -- kings -- men -- had no other need for women. Women were there for starting and maintaining families. The men would take care of the important tasks.

The Princess devoured the stories of the ancient women leaders. Across the sea, there had been women heads of state. There were powerful women all over the world. However, when the struggles destroyed these ancient civilization, the warriors put the women into their current role.

The population plummeted because of famine, disease, and the constant battles. Thus, the successful warriors desired to protect the women. Thus, they could increase their population base. It became important to the men that women have children. Thus, they removed women from the military, the workforce, and other positions of power. Princess Angelina was incensed that women had vital roles in the ancient civilization but not in her own civilization. She was determined to fix this situation.

She was not sure how to accomplish this. How was she going to acquire a position of power? Nonetheless, she was sure that it was something she had to do. Perhaps the internets had access to information that would help. She dug deeper into the books around her. However, she was not finding the information that she required. Very few sources even mentioned internets and they were of sparse information. They did not mention what it was or how to work them.

She did find out that to get on the internet it required a computer. She was not sure what a computer was. Why would something that computes allow you to turn on the internets? She felt that source was not trustworthy. However, it was as close as she got.

Thus, after the frustration of not finding out how to work the internets, Angelina decided to sit at one. Perhaps she could figure out how they worked by using one. Certainly, everything required would be available there. It should not require anything else. Thus, since an internet sat outside her room, she sat down in the chair in front of the machine.

"Hello internet," she stated.

There was no reply. There was some sort of black screen and a keyed input device. Thus, she began pressing the keys. This had no effect either. The screen remained black. She noticed a special key on a box beneath the screen. She decided to try that button.

The black screen flashed and she heard the internet beep. It startled her and she jumped out of her chair. However, the once black screen showed several images with weird things on them. The ancient machine whirred and growled. A cloud of dust shot out the back and the Princess began sneezing.

It has a defense mechanism, the Princess thought as she backed further away from the machine.

She continued to watch it to see what else it would do. She was tempted to run away as she could not control her sneezing. However, she remembered how much of this substance covered everything when she first entered the building. This dust seemed to protect everything -- including the books. It did not appear toxic. It was just annoying.

The machine kept whirring and grinding away but eventually it stopped. It had a strange message on it. Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage, it read.

What does that mean?" wondered the Princess.

It had equally cryptic messages to attempt to solve the problem. She pressed keys to type words that she had found in some of the books she had read. They were of no help. She spoke some words, but they also did nothing.

There was this strange object sitting next to the key input device. The Princess moved it and an arrow moved on the screen. If she moved the object left, the arrow went left. Thus, she determined that it was another input device. However, apart from the arrow, she was not sure how it worked.

It made a clicking noise when she pressed on either of the sides next to the wheel thing. She determined that these were some sort of buttons. The one on the right would pull up a strange list of suggestions. However, the one on the left did not appear to do anything.

After clicking around, Princess Angelina figured out how to pull down items on the screen. The left button did do something. She found a "favorite" that actually came up with something. She had discovered the Google.

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Reunited...

Chapter Ten

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina found out that the Google was an interesting and vast source for information on the internets. The words she would type brought a vast selection of results. However, most of these results were no longer there. Thus, when she would use the strange pointing device to click on the items, they returned an error page. However, the item labeled cache on the Google would return a result.

Thus, most of the ancient technology still worked. However, much of the infrastructure was no longer functioning. Nonetheless, the Princess gained access to much of the information available on one of the internets. One of the first things she learned was that the ancient civilization was obsessed with sex. It was as if these internets were made for pornography.

She searched for some of the names that she had read in some of her books. In this way, she found out more information about the leaders of this former civilization. She devoured everything she could find. Sometimes she ended in a dead-end, but there was plenty other things to read.

Princess Angelina spent hours and hours on the internet. She studied the ancient culture with great fascination. In ways, she found the ancient civilization to be much more advanced than her own. The opportunities for everyone were great. She wondered how such an advanced civilization could throw it all away.

Nonetheless, women in the former times were still objectified. It was evident in some of the images she found. However, some women had real power. Women were not just mothers. They had a say in how their lives went. They would not be traded for hunks of land.

If the women back then realized the power over men they had, she thought they could have taken over the world. At least stop the war...

That gave her the idea. Perhaps men had not changed. Perhaps women could still influence men with their appearance. Perhaps a pretty face could still manipulate the opposite sex. Perhaps she had some power that she could wield.

At this moment, she remembered the reaction Prince William had on her entrance. He would be a good test subject. She just needed to determine how far it would go. She would have to be careful. Men had the power because of strength. An angry man could be difficult to handle, especially for a petite teenager. An angry confrontation could be harmful and even deadly.

Nonetheless, she was sure that her rise to power was going to be through her looks. She felt bad about this. History would not judge her on her merits, if all she had was that men were susceptible to her charms. She had studied hard. She had a thirst for knowledge. It would be a shame to have the history books remember her solely for her beauty. However, in her current circumstance, that is all with which she had to work. Once in power, she would make sure she was known for more.

She decided that she would test her allure on Prince William. She hoped she could quickly determine how far he was willing to go and for what. The first goal would be to find him. She had left him at a hotel to do whatever he wished. It was a largish city, and he may be difficult to find.

She washed up and put on some clean clothes she believed made her look attractive. She stepped outside and the sun was not out.

What day is it? she wondered. What time is it? How long was I at that?

She could not remember the last time she ate something. Her stomach grumbled. Thus, before she would go looking for Prince William, she would get something to eat. Her experiment would have to wait. Or would it?

While it was important to work on people in power, she could also test her hypothesis on any man. She could even test it on the men visiting from across the ocean. The world just opened up with possibilities. The first step was dinner, or lunch, or whatever.

She walked the several blocks back to the hotel where she had left Prince William. It had a fine restaurant, and perhaps the Prince had not left. Suddenly she felt that the world was a different place. She noticed men looking at her. She smiled inwardly.

She walked in the door to the hotel. A guard was on duty, and he greeted her.

"Good Morning Princess. You are up early today."

"I wanted to take a walk," replied the Princess "and it is simply to hot to do during the day."

"A fine idea."

"Is the kitchen open?"

"Not for another hour."

"Oh! But I am really hungry."

"I will see what I can do."

"Do not bother. I will handle it myself."

The guard had orders, and she was the daughter of the king. Thus, he would not be a good subject for her experiment. The kitchen staff might be a different story. They were younger and more removed from the King's influence.

She entered the kitchen and a few of the staff were busy readying themselves to open. Some were checking inventory. Some were gathering supplies. Some were cleaning up a little bit. They all stopped when the Princess walked into the room. She walked up to the man who had been telling others what to do.

"I do not want to be an inconvenience," the Princess began "but if I could get a little something to eat, I would greatly appreciate it."

"Certainly!" the head chef stated. "Sit down! Sit down! What would you like?"

"I do not want to be a bother."

"Nonsense! Whatever you want."

"Well gosh, what is normally served at this time of day?"

"The special this morning is a crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top."

"That sounds very good," replied the Princess with a twinkle in her eye. "But, it sounds like it would be an awful lot of trouble."

"Not at all! We will get it right away!"

The chef clapped his hands and the kitchen sprang to work. The Princess sat there wide eyed watching the kitchen spring to life. So far, her test was successful.

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Reunited...

Chapter Eleven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William spent much of his time exploring the ancient city. Once the intense daytime heat got to him, he would duck into one of the ancient buildings. Inside some of the larger building was a scene similar to the one he saw in the first hotel. There was the sound of a strange language being spoken and people sitting in front of these strange machines.

The people at the machines appeared to be having a good time. The Prince marveled at the number of people visiting this ancient city in the Forbidden Zone. It appeared that many people from across the ocean visited this city. The influence King Jonathan wielded must be great overseas. At least, the number of people enjoying themselves in one of his cities was large.

The Prince spent most of his day wandering along the strip of hotels. As the day wore on, the heat of the day began to lessen a bit. Nonetheless, it was still stifling hot outside of the air-conditioned buildings. With the sun far from its zenith, his thoughts turned to where he would spend the night. He was sure he could stay at one of the hotels, but that would mean he was like everyone else. He was royalty. He should have some special accommodations. At least, that is what he thought.

He pondered the question when he wandered off the main thoroughfare. He wondered what was beyond the glitzy main strip. Thus, as he wandered around, he found part of an ancient and abandoned commercial district. He saw boarded up shopping centers and stores of all kinds. This was once a thriving city with all the amenities.

He continued to walk looking around. He did not care where he was going. He was just exploring the ancient city. He wanted to see what was beyond the beaten path. Thus, he would come to a street and turn onto it. He headed left and right at random. He had become thoroughly lost.

After one particular turn, the area he had entered was much more residential. There were crumbling residential apartments all along where he walked. After a bit more walking, he came to empty lots. It was apparent to him that there were once structures on these empty stretches, but they were demolished. There were also vast stretches of crumbling asphalt.

As the road on which he was walking came to an end, there was a stretch of demolished buildings directly in front of him. However, behind them, he could see some houses. One that caught his eye was walled off from the direction he was going. It was on a cul-de-sac and sat somewhat isolated from the surrounding buildings. It had a wall, which ran along three sides. However, it was not a defensive wall. It was more of a privacy wall or an architectural accent. It would not keep out any invaders, as it was not particularly high and it had no spikes on top. It was just a wall to separate this particular house from the apartments and the neighboring houses.

Behind the wall was a very large single story building with a red tiled roof. Like many of the buildings in the city, it had an earth toned stucco exterior. It looked somewhat like a southwestern-style villa. It had a pergola along the front, which likely had some water hungry plants clinging to them at some point. Those had long since died off. However, it did provide shade for a front porch.

In addition, there was a circular stretch of long abandoned concrete in front of the house. It encircled a small bit of sandy soil which may have been a lawn of some sort or a garden. The once lush garden had been long abandoned and was thoroughly dead. Further, there was a large dead palm tree on one side of the house, and some dead trees along the entryway.

Prince William walked along the circular path towards the front door. The dead trees practically fell over as he walked by. They had been dead quite a long time and the elements had not quite destroyed them. The front door of this elaborate structure was boarded up. This house had stood up to the elements well, but it was clear that no one had looked after it for quite some time.

Furthermore, this house was not boarded up recently. The wood barring the door was brittle from being exposed to years of intense heat. It nearly disintegrated at the touch when Prince William pulled on it. Despite the neglect, the house was still impressive.

Once inside the building, the Prince found the house dark and barren. The former residents had taken all of their possessions with them. At least, someone took them. Thus, the rooms were empty. However, each room retained a certain luxury about them. There was no expense spared in the creation of this structure. Prince William thought that perhaps the luxury was the reason the building was boarded up. The owner borrowed too much and could not pay for such an elegant home. Furthermore, no one else could afford the extravagance to buy the building from the owners.

As the Prince walked around he noticed that the marble floors were covered with a thick layer of dust. Nonetheless, the house's grandeur still showed through. Even the bathroom had a sense of elegance. While the structure was not as large as the castles he had lived in or visited, it was still fit for royalty. It would be fit for royalty even as a prison. He thought that he could make a home of it.

He flipped a few switches, but they had no effect. This structure was not connected to the power system. Despite not having any power, the interior was surprisingly cool. Not hotel cool, but cooler than the outside. He wondered how that was possible. He tried a few other things, but the house was not connected to any services. The house had no water, no electricity, and no cooling.

The Prince continued to explore the house. He walked out the back door and wedged into one corner was a small pit. Perhaps it was a swimming pool. How decadent. In the middle of the desert, this home had a pool of water. No wonder there were wars over water with people willing to waste it in such a manner.

Prince William was happily considering staying at the home. He would ask Princess Angelina if services could be connected. It would be a perfect place for him. It was then that he realized that he did not know where he was. How could he consider living there where he did not know where there was?

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Reunited...

Chapter Twelve

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina enjoyed her meal in the kitchen of the ancient hotel. The chefs outdid themselves. They brought her item after item for her to enjoy. She let them completely pamper her. With a look, she would get more of this or have that taken away. She easily got her fill. She got more than her fill. She could eat no more. She had determined her limit. However, they kept bringing her food.

"I simply could not eat a single thing more," she explained to the chef.

"How about a thin mint?" he asked.

"Nothing. Not a thing," she replied.

"It is wafer thin..."

"I would simply explode if I ate it," she answered. "I thank you for your hospitality though."

"Not at all," the chef replied with a bow. "You may join us any time."

The Princess got up and left the kitchen. She felt as she was waddling around, but she wanted to find the guard she left in charge of Prince William. She found the guard at his post.

"Do you have any idea where I could find Prince William?" she asked him.

"You did not ask me to follow him," he replied. "I was tasked to watch him while he was in the building."

"At ease. You did your task well," she responded. "I was asking if he remarked about where he was going or anything."

"He did not mention anything; however, if you wait for a moment I can check with the staff."

"Very good," the Princess replied with a wave.

The guard led her to a waiting room and she took her seat on one of the overstuffed chairs in the room. She was glad that it was not too far and that she had the opportunity to sit for a while. Her overindulgence was greatly affecting her. She sat patiently waiting for the guard to return while languishing in her over eating. It was not long before the guard returned.

"The Prince is not in any of our properties," the guard said upon his return.

"Does anyone have an idea of where he is?"

"According to our head of security, the Prince is in one of the abandoned houses just to the southwest of here,"

"How could he possibly know that?" she asked.

"I am not at liberty to discuss it."

"I am the daughter of King Jonathan of Calmondak. He is your king, and I order you to answer my question."

"I have my orders."

"You have disclosed much in that statement. These orders must originate from the King himself. What is it?"

"I will not discuss it," the guard replied.

"Could I get a hint?" the Princess asked with a wink.

"Please do not pursue this any more," replied the guard with a sigh. "I do not wish to lose my situation."

"It must be quite top secret then."

"I will not say another thing on the topic."

"From your reaction and the pinpoint precision of the Prince's whereabouts, it must be some sort of tracking device."

"Your highness, please..."

"Do not worry I will vouch for your silence. Wait!"

"Princess?"

"If someone placed a tracking device upon the Prince without his knowledge, that means..."

"Your words will not help to exonerate me."

"That bastard! That dirty rotten conniving -- nerfherder!"

"Your highness?"

"My father has known where I was all along. He has a radio tracker on me! Is that right?"

"I cannot answer your questions," replied the guard attempting to put on his best poker face.

"This has all been a big sham. The wedding. The untrackable suncar. The easily bribed guard. He wanted me to run away."

"Honestly Princess, I know nothing about what you are speaking."

"I am sure of that, but you do know about the tracking device."

"Yes -- I mean no! Ah! you tricked me. I will be exiled to the desert for sure." "How?"

"Mistress?"

"How did we get them implanted?"

"Get what implanted?" the guard replied obstinately.

"Perhaps it was in the food somehow. It was ingested and stayed with us."

"I have no idea of what you are speaking."

"It could have attached itself to the stomach in some way. That way -- it would not need to be continuously replaced. I wonder if they use our own stomach acid to power them."

"Hum de dum dum," replied the guard looking around the room.

"I will have to check with the google to see if this was possible in ancient times."

"Did you say something? Will there be anything else?"

"Could you draw me a map to where I could find the Prince?"

"I will have the head of security provide you with a map."

"You are a sweetheart," the Princess replied to the guard with a kiss on the cheek.

The guard stood there for a moment surprised by the kiss. The Princess gave him a sideways glance, which snapped him out of it. He rushed to the head of security and obtained a map to the house where the Prince was staying.

The guard returned with a surprisingly detailed map. The Princess was expecting a hand drawn thing, but it appeared like the maps she had seen on one of the internets. Someone had circled the location of the Prince in red pen, but the most convenient route was highlighted in yellow. It was a bit of a walk, but the Princess was used to walking.

It would take a bit, and the Princess hoped that Prince William would still be there when she arrived. The long walk would help with the bloated feeling she still had from the meal she just ate. However, her thoughts returned to the tracking device. How long would they last? Did she just eat another one? Perhaps she would return to the chef to probe him for more information.

The sun had been up briefly, but it was already hot. It was going to be another scorching day. The Princess began to long for the cool mornings of her home. She had lots to discuss with her father. She almost forgot why she was looking for the Prince when she arrived at the stately ancient home marked on her map. The Prince was very surprised when she walked into his improvised home.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was getting dark, and it had been a long day for Prince William. However, with the darkness came the realization that he was not that far from the strip. The bright lights he had seen while in the desert came from those hotels. He would just have to head north and east to get back from where he came. He was not as lost as he thought.

He did wish that he had thought about eating before this very moment. Nonetheless, his journey back to the hotels would have to wait. He was more tired than he was hungry, but that situation would reverse in the morning.

The Prince was accustomed to roughing it. When on the trail, one does not find much in the way of luxury. In fact, this house was more luxurious than most of his camping experiences. He would have no problems sleeping in the abandoned house. In fact, the emptied bathtub seemed quite inviting. Thus, he stretched out in the enormous tub and quickly fell fast asleep.

While the fancy tub was by no means soft, it was comfortable enough to provide the Prince with a sleeping spot. Further, its cool marble surface afforded a better night's sleep in the heat of the desert. The sun was peeking over the horizon when he awoke. He had slept quite soundly despite the sleeping conditions.

He slowly got up and looked around further. Perhaps something around would be edible. His stomach had been growling for a bit. Having found nothing to eat, he resigned himself to walking back to the hotel for food. It was at that moment that Princess Angelina walked into the ancient home. He was quite surprised to see her, and he wondered how she had found him.

"It is a long story," replied the Princess.

"You can tell me it over breakfast," responded the Prince as he headed for the door.

"Oh please! I could not eat another thing."

"But, you will tell me?"

"I have not decided yet."

"What?"

"I understand that you have a right to know, but I do not know if you are in a state to handle more shocks."

"I have a tracking device on me..."

"I am afraid so."

"Why am I not surprised?"

"I had nothing to do with it."

"Sure."

"I did not!"

"Whatever you say. Can we -- er -- I get something to eat now?"

"I am sorry to keep you," the Princess replied waving towards the door.

The pair walked west along the cul-de-sac before they could begin their northeasterly trek. They were silent for a portion of the walk. Each did not know what to say to the other. They just walked in their own thoughts.

"So, you are tracking me to make sure I do not leave," began the Prince after a long silence.

"That is not it at all," replied the Princess. "I was unaware of the tracking device until this very morning."

"And you expect me to believe that?"

"It matters little what you believe; however, it is the truth."

"But, you show up at my door in the middle of nowhere..."

"Because I asked around. That is how I found out about the tracker."

"And subsequently my position."

"True, but I came because we have much to discuss."

"Why would I discuss anything with you? I do not know if I can trust you."

The silence between them returned. They walked and the tall hotels came into view. They were almost back to civilization -- such as it was. The Princess gave out a small sigh.

"Do you have the power to have services restored to that house back there?"

"That small place? Why do you ask?"

"These hotels are nice, but are filled with common people. They are not fit for a man of my situation."

"You -- you are just a minor prince..."

"I am still royalty. I feel I have the right to live in better accommodations."

"These are the finest hotels in all of Morica."

"While that may be true, they are not filled with royalty such as myself."

"So you believe you deserve special treatment because of it."

"Naturally."

"What have you done in your lifetime to deserve this treatment?"

"I -- I -- I came looking for you."

"As my knight in shining armor. You came to save me from some unknown evil..."

"Something like that," the Prince said with a sigh. "Anyway, do you have the authority or ability?"

"I do, but it will not be necessary."

"What!?!! Why?"

"Things have come to light that has made me re-evaluate your position -- and mine."

"Things? What things?"

"The tracking device for one."

"And...?

"And what?"

"Are you going to tell me more?"

"What would you like to know?"

"These things that have come to light."

"There is very little need to explain it further."

"And just why is that?"

"You know enough now for my father to kill you on sight," sighed the Princess. "That is if you leave the Forbidden Zone. Why would you like even more reasons?"

"Would he come for me here?"

"He may."

"How likely is that?"

"There are plenty of people here that will do his bidding. You may not be as safe as you think. After all, you are already considered dead outside of here."

"However, I am certainly more safe here than I would be outside."

"So what are you trying to say?"

"I am not sure I wish to leave this place."

"Is living in that house your wish?"

"If services could be restored, it would be a fine residence."

"You would not even leave to have a kingdom of your own?"

"What do you mean?"

"In my reconsiderations, I have given some thought to the kingdom by the gulf."

"Do you know what that entails?"

"It would not entail what you think."

"My father would not cede that land to you unless we got -- married."

"I believe I could convince him otherwise."

"But what about the pirates and raiders?"

"Is it your intention to learn my entire plan?"

"Well yes..."

"That is too bad because we are here. I have no intention of watching you eat. Thus, you will have to wait."

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Reunited...

Chapter Fourteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina made preparations to return to her father's kingdom. She gathered provisions and placed them into her suncar. She had a technician recondition the batteries. At a moderate speed, it would take about fourteen hours to make it back to her father's castle. Thus, there was a need to camp somewhere along the way. She wanted to be in the cooler mountain areas before the need to stop. Further, she did not want to breakdown before reaching her father's castle in Calmondak. The car was going to travel through some pretty harsh areas, and there would be no help available. Thus, preparations were important.

Once the car was prepared, the Princess left the hotel and went back to her library home. She looked up tracking devices on the google. She found out about ancient radio ID tags for pets. While they were not exactly the same thing, the technology could have progressed to the point it was now. It could have become smaller and more powerful. Likely, it was another technology obtained from the ancients but refined by her father's people.

She did more looking at things on the internets. From some of the things she learned, she was certain her father had access to this technology in his castle. However, he clearly hid it from other people in and out of the kingdom. She would force him to reveal it to her. Thus, she could continue looking up things that interested her. When she left this ancient city, there would be many more wonders she would want to study. The she learned the more she realized that the ancients were more advanced than anyone was taught in the schools. There was probably a reason for that, but she would not let her father interfere with her search for knowledge.

After her searches were finished and after she gathered her things, she went to the hotel where she left Prince William. She found him wandering around the casino area. She could tell that the machines intrigued him greatly. However, she wished to get to the mountains before it got too late. Thus, she urged him to come along.

"Why should I?" asked the Prince.

"Can we talk about it in the car?" she replied. "I want to get going before it gets too late in the day."

"Again, why should I?"

"The temperatures in the mountains will be much more comfortable for our camp out."

"You are not listening," asserted the Prince. "Why should I leave the Forbidden Zone?

"Because I want you to," she replied with a pouty look.

"Uhhh..." he replied.

He could not resist that look. Thus, he followed her out of the hotel. She walked directly to the waiting suncar.

"I am driving," the Prince insisted.

"What?" she asked with a glare.

"At least let me drive," he said softening his tone.

"What...?" she added.

"Please!" he replied with a sigh.

She waited by the passenger door. The Prince taking the hint opened the door for the Princess. She got in, and the Prince ran around the car and got into the driving position. The pair headed out on the ancient road towards Calmondak.

"So...," he began after a brief pause.

"So what?" she answered.

"You said we could talk about your plans in the car."

"We are not even out of the city. You sure are anxious to discuss it."

"It does involve my future..."

"Very well," the Princess replied with a sigh. "I will talk to my father and convince him to let you live."

"Wait!" he said as he slammed on the brakes.

"I will be successful," she replied bracing herself.

"How can you be certain?"

"I know my father."

"What if you are wrong?"

"I am certain that I am not," replied the Princess with confidence. "I have enough on him, and he would not dare deny me -- anything."

"What assurances do I have?"

"You will simply have to trust me."

"I am sooooo dead," he replied as he began driving again.

After fairly long stretch of silence the Prince asked, "After you have insisted upon my survival, what then?"

"What do you mean?"

"How do you intend to get my father to agree to giving me the land without a wedding?"

"Oh that?" replied the Princess with a giggle. "I will throw the prophecy in his face."

"I thought you did not believe in it...."

"I do not, but that does not mean that it will not be useful to me. This Prophecy just mentions you rescuing me. Clearly, you have done that, which is all that is required."

"But there is an assumption there..."

"The assumption that I will be so grateful, that I will marry you..."

"Yeah that!"

"You can forget it."

"I think my father will insist."

"Your father is in no position to insist on this."

"But, he can still deny me the land."

"And go against the Prophecy? I do not think so."

After another brief silence, the Prince asked, "How does all this benefit you?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean," replied the Prince with a thoughtful look, "You do not need me to get back home. You simply do not need me for anything. Why did you save me from spending the rest of my life back there."

"Oh that -- are sure you want to know?"

"Are you sure you are fourteen?"

"I am pretty sure," replied the Princess. "My reasons are complicated..."

"We have plenty of time."

"Okay, I will tell you the truth."

"What?"

"I was going to ask your father to cede the land to me -- without you."

"I think that would be even harder to do."

"Not when he realizes that I rescued you, and not the other way around."

"You would use my father's prophecy against him?"

"It was the plan."

"Where do I fit in?"

" You know, there is an ancient saying -- Curiosity killed the cat."

"I have a right to know."

"You can do whatever you like."

"You promised me my own kingdom."

"I lied."

"I do not think you are fourteen at all!"

The pair drove for quite a while in silence. They would occasionally speak, but it was more reminiscences of their youth than the talk of the future. Eventually, they arrived at the place where Prince William had camped what seemed like ages ago. It was a good camping location, and they made a fire and had a nice meal. They would easily make it to the Castle the next day.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

It was shortly before dawn when Prince William awoke. He looked over at the beautiful sleeping princess. As silently as he could, he grabbed his things and headed to the suncar. Because he was the driver, he had the keys. He quietly opened the doors and packed all of his things. As soon as the sun peeked over the horizon, he drove off.

Leaving his childhood friend behind, Prince William drove off in the suncar. He was not sure where he was going to go. Since he was close to the ancient highway, he would begin driving upon it. Nevertheless, he was certain he could not go back to where this journey began.

However, where would he go? When he got there, would he be safe? He was currently in the middle of what could be considered enemy territory. Could he make it to his father's kingdom? Further, he did not have any navigation aid to get him home. When he left, he had only consulted the map of Calmondak. It was all he needed when he first left on this adventure. Without navigational help, he knew that if he headed east, he would eventually reach his father's kingdom. In any event, the Prince wondered what obstacles he would encounter on his journey.

He continued driving for a while, but his thoughts kept returning to the stranded Princess Angelina. Despite being well into the mountains, it was still going to be a hot day. How was she doing? Had she panicked? What was she doing?

Further, how was she going to get back home? Did leaving her at the camp sentence her to death? After all, she let him drive. Thus, she trusted him with the keys. She did not even consider that he would run, so she did not even ask for the keys when the bed down for the night. Further, she did not protect herself from any advances he might make. She completely trusted him. Hence, by his actions, he had completely betrayed her trust.

After much debate with himself, the Prince turned around. The guilt was too much for him. He could not abandon her like that. She was far away from civilization in both directions that she would not survive the trip on foot. He would have to improve his situation in some other manner.

When the Prince returned to the camping spot, he found the Princess cooking breakfast over an open fire. She did not even looked surprised as he drove up. He got out of the suncar and walked over to where the Princess sat.

"Breakfast?" she asked nonchalantly.

"You knew I could never abandon you out here..."

"You can never tell with some people, but I can read you pretty well."

"You do know my life is at stake here."

"Of course."

"How could you be sure that I would find your life more valuable than my own?"

"I do not really look at it that way," replied the Princess. "I have given you plenty of assurances that you would live."

"You by no means can assure that."

"While that is true, you knew that I would not survive out here by myself."

"Sure death vs. possible death -- that is a pretty big chance."

"I also had one more thing going for me. I trusted you."

"Guilt. You knew that I would feel guilty about abandoning you."

"It is an ancient emotion that has plenty of power."

"What is for breakfast?" asked the Prince with a sigh.

The pair ate a fine meal. For a pampered daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, the Princess had surprising good cooking skills. She probably had only made herself a handful of meals, yet she somehow learned to be a competent cook. In her youth, she had garnered numerous skills. The surprisingly good meal calmed the Prince's guilty conscience. He quietly ate his meal.

When they both had their fill, the pair packed the remaining supplies in the car and drove off. Because of the incident that occurred earlier, they were behind schedule. Nonetheless, they still had plenty of daylight to make it back to King Jonathan's castle. The Prince drove a little faster, but he knew he could not get lost during this stretch of the journey. He remembered that there were very few turnoffs off the ancient road. He had driven slowly across this stretch the last time, but he was no longer tracking anyone. He could just go.

After several hours of driving and pleasant conversation, the Prince William noticed a roadblock up ahead. It had been the first sign of life they had encountered since they left the ancient city. There were a good number of people attending this obstacle.

"I will handle this," asserted Prince William as he stopped the car and got out.

The Princess attempted to stop him, but he was out of the car before she could warn him. The Prince strutted towards the front of the car, but before he could say a word, the guards fired their tasers at him. In a painful convulsion, everything went black for the Prince. He tumbled to the ground as the group approached. One of the guards drew his long knife as the group made their way to the convulsing Prince.

"Wait!" exclaimed the Princess as she jumped out of the car.

"Pardon us your highness," replied the guard who appeared to be in charge. "But, we are under strict orders to not let the Prince pass."

"You know that I am the Princess and he is Prince William then."

"Yes Miss."

"How would you know that?"

"I am not at liberty to discuss it."

"The tracking device..."

"I do know not of what you speak," lied the guard.

"In any event, you do not have all the required information."

"Is that so?"

"Prince William and myself have additional information that the King will wish to hear."

"I am sorry your highness, but we do have our orders."

"The King will be quite upset when I get to him."

"There is no way to override the King's orders. We cannot disobey."

"I am telling you that you will be in greater trouble if you do not disobey his orders than if you obey them."

"We will take that chance," replied the guard as the one with the knife approached the Prince.

"I know you have long distance communication," asserted the Princess. "I demand you let me speak to him."

"Please your highness, we have our orders."

"We were just following orders is a poor excuse. I am positive my father would want to hear what I have to say."

"What does that have to do with Prince William?"

"Everything."

"I am sorry mistress..."

The guard with the knife walked right to the Prince. The Princess lied across him to block the way. However, another guard removed her from the still quivering Prince. Thus the one with the knife had full access to the vital parts of the Prince.

"Please..." begged the Princess.

"We have our orders," replied the head guard.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The guard with the drawn knife walked up to Prince William and grabbed him. The strong guard easily picked up the Prince and carried him across his shoulders. He walked the short distance from the suncar to a waiting security van. A second guard was there and put handcuffs on the Prince. Together they gently placed the twitching Prince inside the van. Once that was done, the two guards entered the van and sat next to the secured prince. A third, entered the front, started the van, and began to drive off.

"Wait!" cried the Princess. "He has the keys!"

After what seemed like hours, the driver cried out the window of the van, "They are still in the suncar!"

With that, they drove off. The Princess ran to the car and got in. Sure enough, the keys were there. Thus, she started the car and attempted to follow the van. However, the remaining guards barred her path.

"You are in enough trouble," stated the Princess sternly.

"As I have explained to your highness," replied the highest-ranking guard. "I am under strict orders from the King. We should not be in any trouble for obeying his orders."

"But..."

"You do not outrank your father."

"So why are you detaining me?"

"You are free to go at any time."

"Well..."

"That is, any time after the van is safely away."

"What is your name?"

"Captain Armstrong Romanov Miss."

"I will not forget this Captain, and if any harm comes to Prince William -- I will hold you personally responsible."

With those words, the Princess broke through the roadblock. The captain restrained any pursuit. He decided that pursuit of the Princess should not be necessary, as the van was well on its way. He believed that it would certainly make it to its objective before the Princess could do anything.

The Princess attempted to follow the van, but it was much faster than her suncar. She reasoned that it must use some other technology for propulsion. It certainly was not solar powered. This thought angered the Princess, but she was no longer surprised by the advanced technologies available to her father. He had kept a great deal from her and others.

Instead of attempting to keep up with the van, she decided to speed towards the castle. If she could reach her father in time, she could save Prince William's life. It puzzled her that the guards did not kill him at the roadblock. She could not figure that out. Perhaps her father had something besides death in mind for the Prince. She doubted it, but anything was possible.

It had been several days since she last drove this stretch. Hence, she was not certain how far she had to travel to make it to the castle. Moreover, she did not know when the van would reach its destination. Nevertheless, she drove as fast as she could. She was certain her father was keeping an eye on her with the tracking device; thus, he would know she was coming fast. She thought about how to use this in her favor. She wondered what she could do to get her father's attention and save the Prince. She puzzled on this for quite a long time. That is when she stopped. She did not stop thinking; she stopped the suncar.

She was still a great distance from the castle. Since she was not an experienced driver, a stop should mean something to her father. At least, that is what she hoped. Her father was not likely following her personally. However, his observer may report it to him and a specific conclusion could be made. She would be a long ways from any help if she had an accident. Her father would have to send help. The closest available help would be the van. This is why she stopped. She was sure that her father would conclude that the Princess crashed.

She sat there moving as little as possible. It was not long before the van pulled up.

"Are you all right?" asked the driver.

"I know you are in communication with my father," the Princess replied. "I demand to speak to him."

"I do not know of what you are speaking," replied the driver.

"The phone," demanded the Princess. "You must have some sort of portable telephone device. Give it to me."

"Your Highness?"

"Do not play with me!"

"The sat-phone is -- uh -- only a receiver."

"How were you to give my father information on what happened here?"

"Uuuummm -- wait a moment," replied the driver in a dejected tone.

The driver pressed some buttons on a small communications device. He waited for a few more moments until someone on the other end answered. They exchanged pleasantries and the driver then said into the phone, "She wishes to speak to you sire. Very good sir!"

He handed the phone to the Princess.

"Daddy?" the Princess asked.

"Yes dear," replied King Jonathan on the other side of the phone. "Are you all right?"

"Yes father, but you must not harm Prince William."

"What makes you think I was going to?" asked the King in his most innocent sounding voice.

"The things I know he knows you must also know."

"Run that by me one more time...."

"You and I both know that he knows too much."

"And you think that murdering him is the only way to keep him quiet?" asked the King.

"Not at all, I have several alternatives that I can give you."

"So, you do not think that I could also have alternatives?"

"What he knows can be used against you. Thus, you must keep him close -- or quiet."

"I will say that your views are well reasoned, but what makes you think that he can be trusted?"

"I do not, but I need him alive."

"How so?"

"I am not going to explain over this infernal thing..."

"Very well, I will allow you to bring him with you."

"Thank you daddy! I will see you soon."

The Princess handed the satphone over to the driver and said, "The king wishes to speak to you."

After a few yes sires, the driver exited the van and freed Prince William. He was still groggy from the rough treatment, but he was conscious. Princess Angelina helped him into the waiting suncar. She got into the drivers seat and drove off towards the castle.

The Prince was silent for most of the trip. His head was still swimming with what had happened. The Princess attempted to concentrate on the road and not worry about Prince William. She had not anticipated that roadblock, nor the blind obedience of the guards. Her anger towards Captain Romanov would occasionally boil to the surface. However, the Prince did not seem to notice.

After a few hours of driving, the Princess drove up to the castle compound's gate. Since her disappearance, her father had greatly tightened security. Perhaps it was just a show. In any event, she would not be able to slip out as she had before. She wondered if something else had happened while she was gone. She would find out soon enough.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventeen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William's head was spinning around. He was not sure what had happened. The last thing he remembered was telling Princess Angelina that he would handle the situation. The next thing he remembered clearly was being in the suncar and watching the Princess drive. Everything in between, he was fuzzy on what happened.

He was still attempting to shake off the effects of the taser when they neared the castle. He took a deep breath, but volunteered nothing.

"This time," the Princess stated as they pulled in front of the guard house. "Let me handle this."

"You will get no argument from me," replied the Prince.

"How do you feel?" she asked.

"My head is spinning a little bit, but I think I am fine."

"Sorry! I did not anticipate the roadblock. Damn tracking device!"

"I should have realized that they meant business. It is just as much my fault."

"True...."

"Hey!"

"Oh, you caught that."

"You do not get off the hook that easy."

"I will prove my worth now."

"I hope so! I do not think I could take another shock like that."

"Hah! I think you could...."

"Very funny."

The Princess stopped the car where she could easily walk to the guard who was in charge of the gate. Warily, she got out of the suncar. Looking around, she walked up to the guard.

"Open the gate please," she said politely.

"Can I see your authorization?" replied the guard.

"Author...? Do you know who I am?"

"I have my orders. No one in or out without authorization."

"What is your name?"

"My name is none of your concern."

"Very well. My name is Angelina, Princess of Calmondak, Heiress to the Queen Marcellina. I have had it up to here with the disrespect I have been receiving, and I assure you that you will be flogged!"

The guard got a worried look upon his face. He was not sure what to do. He looked left and right at nothing in particular. He was trying to think.

"Flogged!" repeated the Princess. "Now if you would like to survive the day -- open - the - gate."

Without waiting for a reply, the Princess did an about face. Steadily she marched back to the suncar. She entered in a very deliberate fashion. She pulled up to the gate, and the guard did as the Princess requested. The gate opened, and the Princess drove the suncar to the building where her living quarters resided.

The Prince exited the car, but his legs were a bit shaky. Nonetheless, he managed to walk to the door unaided. At first, he was not sure he could. However, he gained strength with every step. In any event, he was exhausted from the 12 or so steps he took, but he made it. There were a few chairs in the entryway. He found one to his liking and sat in it.

Prince William watched as the Princess walked further into the hall. There she met the King and he greeted her warmly. The pair walked off into a nearby meeting room. The Prince at first got up to follow, but he quickly gave up that idea. The Princess said she would handle this, and he would just let her get on with it. His curiosity did strike him a few times, but the walk to the room was simply too daunting. He was content just resting in his comfortable chair.

Occasionally he would hear the King roar something at his daughter. He did not hear Princess Angelina scream anything back. He was hoping this was evidence that she could indeed handle her father. It was times like this that the Prince would attempt to rise only to collapse back down.

The Prince sat for quite a long time as the King and Princess worked out whatever was going to happen. The Prince hoped that it would not result in his death. He hated that his fate was being argued over without him being present, but he did not wish to complicate matters for the Princess. Not to mention that twenty feet was daunting. He had spent quite a bit of time with her, and she was quite capable for a fourteen year old. So, he let her take care of things.

After what seemed like ages, the Princess exited the room with a satisfied smile on her face. Prince William sighed, and arose out of his seat.

"One down," stated the Princess confidently. "One to go."

"You mean?"

"That is right. We will be back on the road tomorrow."

"You said we -- I get to live?"

"For now..."

"Now you have to talk to my father and convince him."

"I hope he will be easier to convince than my dad."

"I hate to say it, but I doubt that he will."

"Anyway, I do not know about you, but I could use a long hot bath!"

"That sounds like it would require moving from this spot. I think I will stay here."

"I will have someone lead you to your quarters when you are ready."

Princess Angelina left the Prince to sit in his chair as she went to her quarters. A hot shower did sound inviting, but the chair was comfortable. Further, they would not leave until the morning. There was plenty of time to freshen up later. He wanted to get his strength back.

After sitting in the chair for a while, Prince William began to feel that he was being scrutinized. Several eyes were upon him. It was not unusual, but it made him feel uneasy. He looked around with a growing discomfort.

He jumped out of the chair just as someone attempted to grab him. The individual that tried to grab him ran out of the front door, so he could not get a look at him or her. He took a few steps towards the door when the rush reached his head. His vision turned into a tunnel, and then it all went black. He fell to the ground with a thud.

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Reunited...

Chapter Eighteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The Princess soaked in her tub for quite a long time. In her experience, there was nothing like it in the Forbidden Zone city. There, she had to settle for less water consuming cleaning methods. However, in Calmondak the water issues were not as severe. Thus, she could afford this luxury. It was soothing on many levels. Thus, she just sat there without a care in the world.

Further, since she was royalty, no one bothered her with anything while she was bathing. Not even a female servant would disturb her in the bath. She was assured some time alone. These moments were often difficult to come by in her position. Hence, she savored them.

It was early evening when her ritual was finished. She dressed for dinner, and headed to eat with her family. She had been away for a while and it would be an excellent occasion to catch up. She noticed that Prince William was absent; however, that would not be unusual. Many times, the dinner was reserved for family only. In this way, they could speak of any family business without restriction. Thus, at this dinner, there was only the immediate family.

As the meal went on, she realized how much she missed her brother. The pair talked at great length. Prince James felt the same way about his sister, and he wanted to hear all about her adventures. They talked and laughed well into the evening. It was quite late when she took her leave. She had a long trip in the morning. She hoped all would go well, and she would see them again soon.

The Princess peeked into Prince Williams's room to find that he was not there. Since he had nearly free access to the castle complex, it was not strange for him not to be in his room. The Princess did not give it a second thought. She was tired, and she would track him down in the morning.

The Princess readied herself for bed. She asked one of her attendants to have her awakened early in the morning. In addition, she asked about the Prince, but no one had seen him. With a shrug, she dismissed her staff. Without another thought of the Prince, the Princess climbed into her bed.

Her bed was as soft as she remembered. The comfort she experienced was without match. The bath, the bed, the time with family was such a comfort to her. However, what she was embarking upon could end it all. She could lead a life of pampered comfort, or she could jump into the great unknown.

Nonetheless, if she continued to stay in the comfort, she could be married off to some stranger. Her father could need some support somewhere, and he could use her to create an alliance. This chosen mate could be an awful person. Perhaps even King Thorbjorn would need another wife. With the path of uncertainty, away from comfort, came freedom. She would be able to decide her fate. She would be in charge. Thus, she came up against the great conundrum. Would she be led around in a life of comfort, or would she take charge and go off into the unknown.

She tossed and turned with these thoughts going around in her head. What she hoped would be a restful sleep was anything but. It was a big step for her. She felt that she was still a kid. After all, she was only fourteen years old. When her attendant entered to arouse her from her bed, she did not want to leave its warm comfort.

Reluctantly, she did get out of her bed and dressed for the trip to the Lakeland Castle. There, she was would have to face the man she abandoned. It was this old man, who she was to wed, that she insulted by running away. She would now need to negotiate with him. He would have to agree to the terms she set. It was going to be a tough negotiation. She hoped that he would see the benefits of her proposal. After all, it was just business.

When she was completely dressed and packed, she walked to Prince William's quarters. However, he was not to be found there. She asked around, but no one had seen him. In fact, no one had spoken to the Prince since he had left for the Forbidden Zone. For all they knew, he had not returned with the Princess.

She checked with the guard who was supposed to help him to his room. However, that guard claimed that there was no one in the chair in which she directed him. This guard claimed that he asked around, and no one had observed the Prince. Thus, he thought the Princess played a joke upon him.

The Princess asked more people, but no one knew anything about the Prince. No one had spoken to him or seen him at all. They behaved as if she made the entire thing up. It was as if he did not get past the roadblock. The Princess began to get upset.

My father lied to me! thought the Princess.

She rushed to her father's study. He was not there. She checked his bedroom. She checked the meeting rooms. She checked the observation lounge. The more she searched for her father; the more she was convinced that he was hiding the Prince from her.

He was probably interrogating him right now, she thought angrily.

Finally, she found her father in the dining hall. The thoughts of the King torturing the Prince vanished as he sat there eating his breakfast. Nonetheless, she was still angry.

"Where is he?" asked the Princess.

"Where is who?" replied the King innocently.

"Do not treat me like a child father," responded the Princess with a sharp tone. "Where is Prince William?"

"I do not have any idea. Did you check his room?"

"Father! Of course, I checked his room. Now where did you take him?"

"I do not have any idea what you are talking about."

"I spoke to the Prince after speaking with you. I left him for the evening, and now he is nowhere to be found."

"Did you speak with your staff?"

"FATHER! You are the final stop in looking for the Prince. Now tell me where you took him!"

"Why do you think I took him?"

"You are the most exasperating man! Now, tell me where he is or so help me..."

"Can I finish my meal?"

"No!"

"I can only follow the same steps which you did."

"I know about the tracking device."

"Tracking device?"

"Yes. So, if you did not take him," she stated attempting to control her temper. "You can ask your staff where he is."

"I am sure I have no clue about a tracking device, but I will ask my staff if they know where he is."

"Now!"

"Yes dear."

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Reunited...

Chapter Nineteen

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William opened his eyes, and the blackness eventually gave way to white. His head hurt. Even moving it hurt, so he dared not touch it. It even hurt when he looked around. He felt glad that nothing else hurt.

He found himself in a sterile white room. The bed he was on was covered with white sheets. The walls were white. The bright white light reflected off every surface. Wherever he was, it was very bright (and white).

He did not know how long he had been unconscious, but it felt like several hours. There were no windows in his room, so he could not tell if it were night or day. The Prince had gone through a rough stretch, and he was enjoying the warm and comfortable bed. However, he knew the Princess would be looking for him. Thus, he decided to get up.

That is when he noticed that he was strapped to the bed. He was not going anywhere. He shrugged. There was nothing he could do; thus, he relaxed. The fact that he was still alive made him hopeful. He believed that the Princess would be along soon enough. Thus, he did the only thing he could do; he hoped for the best.

He almost slipped back into unconsciousness when a nurse came by to check on him.

"Is there a reason I am strapped to this bed," Prince William asked the nurse to his surprise.

"You had a fall," the nurse replied. "It was a precaution to prevent you from falling out of the bed."

"Can you free me?"

"Without doctors orders -- no."

"So, I am a prisoner here?"

"Do not be silly. You had a nasty fall, and you would not get far. You probably cannot even stand. Since the doctor does not want you to injure yourself further, you are fastened to the bed."

"So, I am a prisoner here..."

"If you insist on thinking that way, go ahead. I will tell the doctor you are awake and anxious to leave."

"I would appreciate that! By the way, what time is it?"

"7:30," he replied.

"AM or PM," inquired Prince William.

"You did have a nasty fall."

"My head thanks you for the obvious diagnosis."

"It is morning," responded the nurse curtly.

Prince William struggled against his restraints, but his head complained. The nurse was right; he probably could not stand. The exertion against the restraints nearly knocked him out. Even if he were free, he would not be able to get to the Princess.

Once again, he was nearly asleep when someone arrived. This time it was the doctor.

"How do you feel?" the doctor asked.

"Like a twelve gallon head in a ten gallon hat," replied the Prince.

"That is to be expected."

"How did I get here?"

"My nurse found you on the floor in the lobby. He brought you here."

"Where is here?"

"You are in the infirmary -- in Calmondak Castle."

"What happened?"

"You fainted and hit your head on the floor. It was a fairly hard blow. As I said, my nurse found you on the floor and brought you here."

"You treated me?"

"Yes, and I recommend you stay where you are. You will not be stable on your feet for a few days."

"I was to travel to Lakeland today."

"I strongly recommend you delay your trip."

"It really is not up to me."

"The trip should wait until your wounds heal. I cannot be any more plain than that. I am sure your traveling companion would understand."

"You do not know the Princess very well..."

"You should rest. Let the Princess worry about her travel plans."

The doctor checked the straps, and gave a reassuring look to Prince William. The Prince did not feel reassured, but he was still strapped to the bed. Clearly, nothing he could say or do would change the minds of the infirmary staff. He was staying put for the time being.

With a shrug, the Prince closed his eyes. His head was throbbing, and he wished it would stop. He drifted off to sleep. His mind raced around his condition. He dreamed that a mad scientist was tinkering in his brain. He tried to struggle, but was strapped to the bed. His dream continued as the scientist poked, prodded, and gave him different thoughts. Pain turned to colors. The colors began to twirl.

The colors turned to bright white as he opened his eyes. It seemed like a short nap, but another nurse came to check in with him. William tried to speak, but he was lost for words. He noticed that he had some sort of IV drip. He wondered if he had that when he woke up the first time. He wondered if they were actually experimenting with his brain. He drifted back into the strange dreamland he had previously emerged.

Perhaps this is what the King had in mind all along -- to use him in brain experiments. Who was that man that tried to grab him? Was he drugged? Perhaps that is why he blacked out. Maybe this all was a ruse. Perhaps the deal Princess Angelina made with King Jonathan was not what he thought.

In and out of the dream and semi-dream state, Prince William drifted. His mind ran from one subject to another. He went from serene to panic to wonder to any other emotion. He tried to concentrate but was unable to grab onto anything. It was as if he did not have control over his own thoughts. The drugs! he briefly thought before his mind wondered onto the next subject.

His mind kept returning to the Princess. It was in her that he could concentrate for longer stretches. His uncertainty about her began to drift away. His suspicions slowly faded. His pleasant thoughts prevented him from going into the darkness. His curiosity about his current situation kept his thoughts from swirling around. Finally, he drifted off into a more restful sleep.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina followed her father to a nearby control room. The King attempted to slip into the room, but the Princess got her foot in the door. Following that was a quick argument outside the door; however, the Princess prevailed. The Princess was not going to be denied access to this very important -- but secret -- room.

Inside the room was a large computer screen. It was larger than any she had seen before. On the screen, there was a map like the ones she had seen on the Google. There were a large number of markers at various locations on the screen. King Jonathan whispered into the ear of one of the technicians. The operator typed on his keyboard, and it zeroed in on a particular marker.

"He is in the infirmary," remarked the King.

"What?" asked the Princess.

"It appears," the King began in an innocent voice "that Prince William is in the hospital."

"And how did he end up there?" asked the Princess in an accusatory tone.

"Honestly dear, I have no idea."

"Uh huh..."

"I am telling the truth," the King replied with a shrug. "Perhaps, you should go to the Prince and hear what he has to say."

"I will do just that," the Princess remarked as she left the room.

Princess Angelina walked the corridors towards the infirmary. From the command center, there was not a direct route -- without exiting the building. Thus, she had to wind through several corridors. That gave her time to formulate what she was going to ask the Prince.

When she arrived at the infirmary, the staff was reluctant to let her see Prince William. He had a nasty fall and needs his rest was the phrase she heard from numerous individuals. However, her rank overrode those concerns. Hence, she was allowed into Prince William's room.

When she entered, the Prince was asleep. Her attempts to wake him were unsuccessful. The suspicions of her father increased when she noticed that he was strapped to the bed. In fact, her trust of everyone in the castle complex decreased. She did not know whom she could trust.

She ordered a chair from an orderly. She was going to wait by the Prince's side. She sat for a bit, but the Prince did not stir. She decided that she could not just sit. She needed something to do while she waited. She gave orders to anyone who would listen that the Prince was not to be disturbed. Further, if he were to wake, she should be informed immediately.

With that, she walked through the corridors to her quarters. This was a much more direct route. She grabbed a few books. At this time, she wondered if there were any internets in the hospital. She found that they were a great way to pass the time. Nevertheless, the books on paper were going have to do for now.

When she returned to the Prince, someone was looking over him with a clipboard.

"Excuse me?" the Princess stated with her anger in control as much as possible.

"Oh..." replied the nurse innocently.

"Do my words hold no weight anywhere around her anymore?" the Princess asked.

"What do you mean?"

"I left orders that the Prince was not to be disturbed, and not 15 minutes later..."

"I was just checking on him."

"For what purpose?"

"He needs his rest, and I was checking his IV."

"This IV is keeping him asleep?"

"Naturally."

"How long will he be asleep?"

"Probably for the rest of the day."

"Then shut it off, or I will yank it out!"

"I -- uh -- I cannot do that."

"You do know that it is within my powers to have you flogged..."

"But..."

"Flogged!"

"I will go get the doctor."

"You do that."

The nurse rushed away. Princess Angelina watched as he had an animated discussion with presumably the doctor who was caring for Prince William. After much arm flailing by the nurse, the doctor rushed over to the Princess.

"Do not touch that IV," exclaimed the doctor.

"As I explained to your nurse, it is within my powers to have you flogged."

"But..."

"Flogged!"

"The Prince needs his rest."

"As I have been informed on numerous occasions."

"Well -- it is in his best interest to remain here."

"While I am sure you are concerned for his health, you had better disconnect him and allow him to awake immediately. Otherwise, there will be an inordinately large amount of hell to pay!"

"But..."

"No buts! Disconnect him now, or as I have warned, I will do it myself."

The doctor removed the needle in Prince William's arm. He moved the stand away from the bedside, and remarked, "It will still be a few hours before he wakes up."

"Bring me a wheel chair."

"What?"

"He may be unconscious, but he will still be able to travel. I am taking him away from this place!"

"But..."

"He can stay here in this bed, or he can sleep in the rear seat of a suncar. What is the difference?"

"He will have care..."

"He will have care in his home castle as well."

"Very well," replied the doctor with a sigh.

The doctor brought a gurney instead of a wheel chair. With the help of an orderly, he lifted the Prince onto it. The orderly pushed the bed to the lobby and out the door. At this time, the Princess went to the location where she had left the suncar. She brought it over, and the orderly gently placed the Prince in the back seat.

The Princess drove to the gate. She jumped out, and spoke to the guard.

"Open the gate."

"Can I see your authorization?" replied the guard.

"I owe you a flogging from last time..."

"Sorry ma'am," the guard said with a bow.

The gate opened immediately and the Princess drove through it. She checked to see if the Prince was still there, and he was. This had been more difficult than she anticipated. She hoped it would be different in Lakeland. However, she was not hopeful.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William dreamed that he was flying. He was soaring like a bird. Over the hills and valleys he flew. He went swooping left and right. Occasionally, a bird would attack his head, but he flew on. It was an exhilarating feeling even with the intermittent head pain. Eventually, he realized that he had no control over his flight. He would swoop and swerve, but he was not controlling the flight.

Hence, he morphed from a bird like flyer to a passenger of a plane. He still soared, but his flight was dependent on the whims of the pilot. The Prince, at various points, would hit his head on the plane's ceiling. After a while, he became airsick. He began searching for an airsick bag. Finding none, he just let it go.

He awoke vomiting on the floor of the suncar.

"Are you alright?" asked the Princess with concern.

"Spare car flee?" the Prince answered trying to piece things together.

"We are about a quarter of the way to Lakeland Castle."

"Cow song have I spleen bout?"

"We have been driving about eight hours. I do not know how long you were asleep before I got you out of the infirmary."

The Prince felt a wave a nausea come at him as the Princess pulled to the side of the road. He tried to open the door, but he was unable. He was conscious, but not quite in control of his functions. He felt that the door handle kept moving. Thus, he vomited on the suncar's floor again.

"Can you make it a little more?" asked the Princess.

"Floor?"

"There is a good place to camp and spend the night just a few miles down the road -- if you can make it."

"More beets have cows," replied the Prince.

"While that makes no sense, I will take that as a yes."

The Prince lied back and tried to recapture the feeling of flight. It worked briefly, but the nausea kept interfering. He was not sure if it were the movement or the smell of vomit that was causing it. Perhaps it was a bit of both. Nonetheless, he managed to fight back the urge as the Princess pulled off the ancient roadway.

There was a small parking area with a few small concrete block buildings. Further, there was a small amount of open space, and a few crumbling gazebos. It was a perfect place to stop and rest.

The Princess stopped the car and immediately got to work. She set up a tent and inflated a mattress for the bottom. The Prince tried to get up and help, but he could not move. Every time he attempted to get up, the nausea would return.

When the campsite was set, the Princess came over and helped the Prince get out of the car. The Prince thought she was quite strong. He was surprised how easily she got him to mattress in the tent.

The feeling of flight gave way to spins. Around and around the Prince felt he was going. No matter how he tried, he was unable to change the feeling. He noticed that it was always clockwise. Odd, he thought.

He concentrated upon why he was spinning. He thought that maybe he could actually feel the earth's rotation. Perhaps he had been disconnected with the earth's gravity. He pursued this line of reasoning until he fell asleep.

The Prince welcomed the dreamless sleep in which he found himself. The strange disconnection he felt with the world around him was disturbing. The flight, the spinning, and all that accompanied those dreams did not make for restful slumber. The dreamless night was most welcome.

The blackness changed to blueness. The Prince opened his eyes to notice that the tent was a bright blue. The sun was up. It had been up for a while. It was already midmorning. He felt pretty good -- until he tried to get up. He let out a gasp, and the Princess came running.

"Do not try to get up stupid!" insisted the Princess.

"I thought I could..." replied the Prince.

"It appears that the drugs have worn off."

"Drugs?"

"You were on some medications that made you sleep. It sounded like you were having some fantastic dreams for a while."

"Did I mention beets and cows?" asked the Prince.

"Not that I recall," lied the Princess.

"I do feel much better."

"You did sleep all night and most of the morning."

"Sorry."

"Not to worry, I do not wish to push you too hard."

"Is there any food?"

"You are hungry?"

"Famished!"

"That is a good sign. Now, do not move and I will bring you something."

The Princess brought some simple food. The Prince did not care what it was and ate it hungrily. He washed it down, and ate some more. He tried to think when he ate last, and he could not remember. It had been quite the couple of days.

When the meal was finished, once again the Prince attempted to get up. His head was not allowing that to happen without help. This time, the Princess came and supported him. He made it to the suncar. She tried to put him in the rear where he could lie down, but he would not allow that. He would sit in the passenger seat next to her.

His ears rang as he sat in the car. He was surprised how sweet the interior smelled. He had vague recollections that he got sick, but there was no evidence of that now. With each passing moment, he felt stronger and stronger.

The Princess broke camp, and repacked the gear as the Prince looked on. There were a few moments when he thought he should help, but he was not up to it. It was all he could do to sit up. He hoped to be able to walk by the time they reached his father's castle, but he would have to wait and see if that were possible.

Once the car was packed, they were back on the road. There would probably be two more nights of camping before they arrived. He had slept valuable daylight away, and they would be lucky to get to the border that day. Perhaps the next day would go better.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William's head throbbed as he and the Princess made their way towards his father's castle. It was difficult for him to keep his head from wobbling around, and this made things worse. He believed that perhaps he should have been reclining in the back seat instead of sitting in the front. However, his pride was preventing that.

He managed not to get carsick, so he was grateful for that. The throbbing headache was bad enough, that it would have really hurt his pride. He tried to keep up his appearance, but the Princess knew he was not doing well. She stopped often which helped his well-being but not his pride.

The second night, the pair camped just inside of the Lakeland borders. There were no incidences crossing the frontier. The Prince was instantly recognized and got the respect he expected. This upset the Princess to no end, but that was the way things were. The Prince had no control over such things. Nevertheless, it was a much-needed boost for the Prince's ego.

Upon lying on the tent mattress, the spins returned. The Prince actually welcomed them. It sure beat the way he felt in the suncar. He just rode the spins into the night. He fell asleep quickly.

Once again, the black turned to blue as he awoke in the tent. To him, it seemed like a short night. However, he had once again slept well into midmorning. It almost felt that he closed his eyes and when he opened them, it was morning. It was quite a fitful sleep. So much so, that he thought he could just get up and walk out of the tent. He was once again wrong.

Princess Angelina, hearing him stir, brought him some food. He accepted it readily, but he was tired of being treated like an invalid. The Princess had made camp, drove, and fixed the meals. He did nothing but sit around. The least he could do was walk to the car unaided.

He insisted that the Princess leave him alone. His attempts to stand were difficult, but he was determined to make it on his own. The Princess could do nothing but stand by and watch. Thus, instead of watching him stumble along, she cleaned up things around the camp.

It was quite a struggle, but the Prince made it to the suncar. He ended up crawling more than walking, but he made it. Further, he needed no help. He was quite proud of himself for that accomplishment.

Daylight was again the mitigating factor in their travel. The suncar's batteries could only store so much power. Further, as the left the dry southern stretches of Calmondak, they were entering the farming areas of Lakeland. Hence, there were more clouds and even rain. Hence, the suncar was hampered by the less than ideal weather conditions.

Nonetheless, the Prince and Princess managed to get within a couple of hours drive of the castle of the Prince. The Prince attempted to help in the construction of the camp, but he was more of a burden than a help. Hence, the Princess insisted that he not help. He reluctantly obliged her.

While the Princess was setting up the camp, the Prince went for a walk. He had gained a great deal of strength. He took several steps before he had to rest. After a brief rest, he could take a few more steps. He had taken maybe 30 steps before he could go no further. He sat down in the grass, but sitting was not going to do the trick. Therefore, he had to lie down. His old friend spin joined him.

From his reclining position, the Prince glanced over to the Princess building the camp. With every action she took on the trip, the Prince gained more fondness for the Princess. He was already quite fond of her, but the way she cared for him on the trip endeared her to him even more.

Things would be a great deal simpler if she would just agree to marry him. There would be no need to convince the King that she was the target of The Prophecy. King Thorbjorn would give the pair of them the land without conditions. There would be no reason to make up anything.

Furthermore, they got along quite well. Obviously, thought the Prince, she cared enough about me to care for me on this trip.

He tried to get up and help set up the camp again, but had not regained enough strength. The Prince would wait until the evening meal was ready before getting up.

"Are you strong enough to come to eat?" asked the Princess after the camp was finished.

"I will be right there," replied the Prince.

The Prince gathered up all his strength to arise from his resting spot. He stood up, but could not straighten himself. In his stoop, he took several steps. Once again, he had to rest.

"I can bring food to you," insisted the Princess.

"I can make it," gasped the Prince.

"The doctor said you needed rest," insisted the Princess.

"I can make it," repeated the Prince holding his hand in the air.

The Prince took several more steps, and felt a little better with each step. Nonetheless, he still had to rest before continuing.

"It is no trouble for me to just bring the food there," assured the Princess.

"I can make it," the out-of-breath Prince repeated.

"It may be cold before you get here," joked the Princess with a shy smile.

"I can make it," responded the Prince with more confidence.

It seemed that with each step and exchange he gained strength and confidence. He almost stood up straight rather than the stooping position in which he walked, but he thought better of that.

"You are almost here," stated the Princess.

"I can make it," responded the Prince with pride in his voice.

"Aren't we the Little Engine that Could" the Princess said.

"I can make it," replied the Prince as he fell into a heap.

The Princess ran over to the pile that was the Prince. His head was throbbing and the world was spinning. He had tried as hard as he could, but he just could not make it any farther.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Lakeland/Calmondak Treaty Map

King Thorbjorn of Lakeland had several sons. His wives had always been able to produce heirs - that is male children. Thus, there was never any question that one of his sons would inherit the kingdom. However, it was not likely to be Prince William. Something quite catastrophic would have to happen first. This particular prince was well down the list of sons.

Further, the King had just heard the news that his new wife had just conceived another child. Hence, there was due to be an increase in the bounty of children in the Thorbjorn household. Depending on the Queen's disposition, the new child (if it were a boy) could, in fact, out rank William.

Thus, the King began to regret mentioning the prophecy to Prince William. While the piece of land he would be granting the Prince was small, his siblings would be greatly jealous of the King's action. It would make a valuable strategic alliance for Lakeland, but that still would not sit well with his other sons.

The King took heart that Prince William always suffered from bad luck. The pirates and the raiders that roamed the gulf would likely wreak havoc on the newly founded kingdom. Therefore, the new king and queen of this parcel would have to cede back the land to Lakeland when their kingdom failed.

He hated to set up his son to fail, but he had several others. He just had to forestall their jealousy until Prince William and Princess Angelina returned from the kingdom with their plans destroyed. Then all would return to normal in his kingdom.

On the other hand, perhaps Prince William would not return. After all, the Forbidden Zone had claimed several lives. Further, King Jonathan could simply kill Prince William at any time and blame it on the journey. It was quite possible that Prince William would never come back.

He had pondered the events he set in motion since the Prince left on the mission. He would sit and look out the window of his observation tower. He would sit there for hours and ponder the situation. The newly crowned Queen would come in and try to understand, but she had no experience with the weighty issues with which her husband had to cope.

On this particular day, the King saw a suncar approach. A wave of mixed emotions came over him. On one hand, he wanted it to be Prince William. In his way, the King missed his son. On the other hand, the return could very easily set in motion a great conflict within his family.

His heart wanted the suncar to pass by the castle. He could deal with Prince William not returning, but he was not ready for him to return.

Keep going. Keep going..., the King thought to himself.

Nonetheless, he felt his heart sink a little bit as the car pulled up to the castle gate. He watched as the gate opened up and the suncar drove into the courtyard.

Just be a messenger, the King thought.

A crowd gathered around the car. The crowd grew bigger, and they began to cheer. He could hear the shouts that Prince William had returned. More and more people gathered around the car. The crowd became so large that the suncar had to stop well away from the entrance to castle complex. This made it easier for King Thorbjorn to watch the action.

He watched as Princess Angelina exited the driver's side of the vehicle. The cheers went up as the beautiful young woman waved to the crowd. A second figure exited but stayed hunched-over. A few members of the crowd rushed over to support the obviously ill passenger. The injured individual waved to the crowd and another cheer erupted. It was obvious to the King from the cheer that Prince William had returned.

He called for his servants to usher the pair into the main dining room. He ordered a large feast to be prepared. The return of the Prince was a cause for much celebration. He did not have anything planned, as he did not know when (or if) his son would return. However, the castle was always ready for an impromptu celebration. Thus, the King set the wheels in motion.

The King put on some celebratory clothes and made his way to the large dining hall. He entered and saw the Prince sitting at the table with his head on his hands. It was obvious at first glance that the Prince was in no shape for celebration.

"I can make it," insisted the Prince as he looked up with a droop in his eyes.

"He has been saying that quite a bit," added the Princess.

"If it is too much," the King said in an assuring tone. "We can have this event later."

"I can make it," replied the Prince confidently yet wearily.

"He cannot," added the Princess. "However, if you bring in some sort of hospital-type bed, he would have a better chance."

"What is wrong with him?" asked the King.

"I can make it," the Prince said putting his head back down on his hands.

"He hit his head pretty hard," the Princess informed the King, "The doctor said he needs his rest."

"Why did you bring him here?" asked the King. "Why did you not let him rest?"

"It is a long story," the Princess answered. "He will be fine. It is likely just a concussion."

"I can make it," the Prince whimpered.

The King ordered a servant to bring a bed into the dining hall. The King himself lifted Prince William onto the bed. The Prince was immediately asleep. He stayed that way for most of the feast. This was all the better for the King. He did not have to delve into The Prophecy, or any of the future for the Prince and Princess. He could simply enjoy the party. He would deal with the ramifications later.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With Prince William ailing, Princess Angelina could not broach the subject of the treaty land or the prophecy's fulfillment with King Thorbjorn. Thus, she simply enjoyed the feast. Any discussions could wait until morning. Unlike the Prince in her kingdom, she did not feel there were any threats to herself or the Prince.

The party had gone on for some time when the Princess asked to be shown to her room. With all of the excitement, a room had not been prepared for her. The King assured her that it was a simple oversight. The King dispatched a servant to ready a room. The King assured the Princess that the room would be ready shortly, and that she should enjoy the party for a bit longer.

Prince William continued to sleep in the provided hospital bed. The Princess was envious, as she had spent several days driving and camping. The thought of a real bed was welcoming. However, there was nothing she could do about the situation. She considered having more wine, but decided against that idea. She could already feel the effects of the small amount she had already consumed. More would just aggravate her sleepiness.

She was having a conversation with one of the guests when the servant told her that her room was ready. She excused herself from the conversation and went to the room. It was a smallish room with a queen-sized bed in the center. It had four posts and a canopy over the top. It had a royal blue feather comforter folded down on one corner. It invited her in.

She did not bother to undress; she just slipped off her shoes. She entered the bed and the warmth surrounded her. She was asleep immediately. The apparent warmth and security washed over her. The long journey and hard work instantly evaporated and she was back in the luxury that she had long gotten used to.

She did not know how long she had been asleep when she noticed that she had left the lights in the room on. She slipped out of the bed, and suddenly felt that something was wrong. She was not sure what it was, but something strange was happening. She looked around the room, but she did not notice anything out of place. However, she only saw the bed when she first entered.

"Come out!" she shouted.

There was no answer.

"I am Angelina, Princess of Calmondak, Heiress to the Queen Marcellina! Now, step out or there will be dire consequences."

"I know who you are Princess," spoke a deep dark voice as a man stepped out of the shadows.

"Who are you?" asked the Princess. "And, what do you want?"

"I am Captain Arieux and I am here to protect you."

"Protect me from what?"

"Whatever may be lurking in the castle."

"How long have you been there?"

"I beg your pardon, but I just arrived. Please forgive me for waking you."

"It is all right."

"It was wise of you to leave the light on. It surely kept any unwanted guests out of your room."

"Yes... That was my intent," lied the Princess. "However, it was preventing me from experiencing a satisfying sleep. After I use the toilet, I plan to turn it off. Is that okay with you?"

"By all means."

Captain Arieux returned to his spot in the shadows and the Princess took care of her needs. She turned off the light and returned to the comfort of the bed. However, sleep did not come as easily this time. The thought of a bodyguard weighed heavily on her mind. Thus, she tossed and turned a bit.

Am I in danger? the Princess thought to herself. Did I do something to warrant the danger?

The thoughts raced through her mind. She did not mention the prophecy, but perhaps it was on the minds of a great number of people. The power of fulfilling the prophecy could put people on edge. However, who believed those types of things? Further, different people could interpret the results in various ways. It would not result in anyone losing liberty, or would it?

Suddenly, the Princess bolted upright in her bed. She heard a floorboard squeak followed by the sound of scuffling. After a few moments of struggle, she heard the sound of something heavy falling upon the floor.

"Who is there?" the Princess shouted.

"It is nothing," replied the dark voice.

"Is that you Captain?"

"Yes Princess," replied the guard. "Someone entered your room. It was most likely an accident."

"Are they all right?"

"They will be a little sore, but they will be fine in the morning. Please, go back to sleep."

"After that?"

"I am sorry. I tried to take care of the situation as quietly as I could."

"The way of the ninja is not what it used to be."

"You know of ninjas?"

"In my youth, I had a thing for the ninja arts. I even thought about studying ninjitsu."

"What? Five years ago?"

"That sounds about right, but I lost interest."

"I would be interested to learn what you know."

"I have not thought about ninjas in quite a while. I would not know where to begin."

"Not now!" Captain Arieux stated firmly. "You need your rest. I will gather my thoughts and give you a list of questions -- if that is okay with you."

"I would like that."

"Now, get some sleep."

The thought of a ninja lurking in her room brought back many fond memories for the Princess. She felt the warmth wash over her again, and she surprised herself. She fell asleep quite quickly.

When she awoke in the morning, the Captain and the body were nowhere to be found. The Princess washed up and put on some clean clothes. With the mood she was in, she practiced her ninja moves as she made her way through the castle.

She suprised King Thorbjorn at the breakfast table. The King roared with anger, and then with laughter. The pair shared a nice breakfast without talking business.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

At breakfast, King Thorbjorn told Princess Angelina about the founding of Lakeland Kingdom:

It was a time of great conflict. A once great nation was tearing itself apart. It was partially due to a struggle over water; however, Lakeland had its lakes. Thus, water was not much of an issue here. It was other parts of the nation.

Nonetheless, many economic difficulties resulted in the upheaval. Difficulties that were both real and imaginary. There were riots and violence in the streets of the cities throughout the country. The citizens could not get any help from the structures designed to prevent these problems from getting out of hand. Hence, the effects of the water wars hit everyone. The great nation was doomed.

When the rest of his fellow citizens were rioting for justice and the rule of law, the First King, as we call him, was gathering up resources. He collected enough food and water for several years, and he stored them in what became our castle complex.

The city in which he lived had a university. This university had met with hard times because of the disinterest of the state and federal government. This was the case of several government-supported institutions. Thus, many university buildings nationwide were greatly underused (or abandoned.) Hence, the First King stored his supplies in the upper levels of a tall university building, and no one noticed.

This gave him several advantages. Of course, there was limited access. There were two stairwells and an elevator. In times of trouble, or when there was no electricity, the elevator was disabled. Hence, attackers would have to climb several flights of stairs. Blocking off one stairwell meant that a single person could defend upper floors. This is what the King did.

Hence, while the citizens were rioting because of the shortage of food and other services, the First King was building the defenses for his acquired stronghold. He built a reinforced concrete wall on the tenth floor of one of the stairwells. Thus, no one could go any further than ten floors in that stairwell.

On the eleventh floor, he built his defenses for the other stairwell. If you made it past him, you could finish going up to his storehouse. However, he made his defenses quite formidable. He electrified the steel door and greatly increased its strength. Further, he co-opted the sprinkler system for a fire attack.

He also built his barricade in the stairway in such a way that he could fire projectile weapons through it without taking fire himself. He had a few crossbows, but his main weapon for use was a pneumatic nail-gun. He cranked up the pressure so the nails could penetrate most armor. They were seldom lethal, but they were painful. With the electrified door and the flamethrowers, he could single-handedly defend his castle.

Thus, when the riots for control of land and buildings hit, the First King was fully prepared. He had his defenses in place, and he had a great supply of food and water. He was fully ready for whatever came his way.

The First King's stronghold had a connecting tunnel to other university buildings. Thus, when he had an opportunity, he would reinforce or block off other entrances. In this way, he could improve the security of his stronghold, and increase the size of his castle complex.

When winter fell, it fell hard on Lakeland. It was cold and the city's infrastructure had collapsed. The First King had no electricity. He had some batteries to provide emergency power for his defenses. They were not to be wasted on heat.

It was a bitter cold winter. The great King had overlooked heat, but he quickly rectified the situation by building a fireplace in the university building. However, he had to go out and gather firewood on a regular basis. Further, he had to carry the gathered wood up the stairs. Hence, it was exhausting work. Many times he just stayed under copious blankets.

The King could use the nearby river for power and irrigation, as there was a large stretch of land next it. There was enough land for him to grow a large array of crops. He had it all planned out for when spring arrived. He just needed to survive the harsh winter. While he struggled, he managed to make it.

Many did not survive the harsh Lakeland winter. Rioters and looters destroyed the crops of the farms. These same groups took or killed much of the livestock. Thus, there was little food being raised in the turmoil of the collapsing nation. Starvation was common. Thus, any store of food was greatly valuable.

Next to the river, the First King planted a small garden. He tilled all of the land by hand, and planted some vegetables. It snowed well into spring, and he hoped he would get a crop. He did not need to grow food yet, but it would supplement his stores. Further, he craved fresh food. There would not be enough to share, but it would be a good start.

However, this garden did not go unnoticed. A group of raiders spied him working the land. He was weeding his plot when they struck. A dozen men rushed him. He jumped into the frigid river to avoid capture. He swam downstream and got out when he could not take much more.

As fast as he could run, he made a dash towards his stronghold. The raiders were on his heals as he entered his building. He attempted to seal the door, but they broke through. He rushed through the tunnels towards his barricaded station. The many trips up and down the stairs worked to his advantage. He managed to make it to his position well ahead of the group of attackers.

He enabled the electrified door and readied his defenses before they climbed the eleven flights to his position. The first man got full brunt from the nail-gun. The second man in his attempt to avoid the flying nails tried the door. The electricity froze him and he shivered at the door. It took several tries from his comrades to free the man from the trap.

Five of the raiders died at the hands of the great king before they left the barricaded position. They left the bodies of their dead comrades at the barricade, and they had already begun to smell. Hence, the great King threw them out the 11th floor window. Naturally, this upset the raiders and they resumed their assault.

They attacked for several days, but they could not overcome the well-planned defenses. All twelve ended up losing their lives in their assault. Some of the local survivors took note of this feat. After that incident, the First King and many area survivors allied themselves. They helped with the garden. They helped build the power station. They established the kingdom of Lakeland.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"You are not telling her that boring story of the First King are you?" asked Prince William as he slowly hobbled into the dining hall.

"It is a good story," replied King Thorbjorn.

"Did you tell her why he is called the First King rather than great great great great grandfather?" begged Prince William.

"It is not essential to the story," responded the King.

"If he is not related to us, then what is the point of the story?" asked the Prince as he slumped into a seat at the table.

"It is our heritage..." added the King.

"How are you feeling?" interrupted Princess Angelina.

"Like I just traveled from Calmondak in a covered wagon," replied the Prince.

"I think you are improving," the Princess said. "That is an excellent description of how I feel."

"As long as we are on the same page," the Prince added. "Did you bring up The Prophecy?"

"No," replied the King. "There has been no discussions of the future while you were out. We only spoke of the past."

"Besides," glared the Princess. "If you did not make it, all discussions would be moot."

"When did that ever stop you two in anything?" asked the Prince.

"You are in a mood," the Princess acquiesced. "You should eat something. You will feel better."

"The Princess is right," added the King. "Here try some of this. It is fabulous."

The Prince was going to keep going, but the Princess gave him a look that froze him in his tracks. He immediately accepted the food and began eating. The food did make him feel better.

The trio sat in silence for a while as the Prince ate. Many thoughts went through his head, but he decided it was best not to bring them up. He just sat and ate in silence. In any event, he did not want to get the evil eye from the Princess again.

"So, I guess we should make plans for the wedding," the King said finally breaking the long silence.

"What!!?!!?" replied the Prince nearly choking on some food.

"If you are to fulfill The Prophecy," began King Thorbjorn. "You will need to be wed."

"It says no such thing," replied the Princess in a panic. "The return of the distressed is all that is required."

"I suppose you are right," mused the King.

"A bit of land for a small kingdom is needed," added the Prince.

"I suppose you want the land from the treaty," responded the King.

"Sire," Princess Angelina said in a measured tone. "About that..."

"Now is not the time," interrupted the Prince as he slumped in his seat.

King Thorbjorn jumped up and swept the Prince into his arms. He showed his great strength as he swiftly carried the Prince into the infirmary. He gently placed him in a bed and ran off to fetch a doctor.

"What was that about?" asked the Princess when the King was gone.

"The timing was off," replied the Prince meekly.

"I suppose you are right," responded the Princess, "But, you just delayed the inevitable."

"Is that a problem?" whispered the Prince.

"It is just that he will not wish to discuss it until you are fully well," answered Princess Angelina. "It could be days before the subject could be broached again."

"At least the wedding is off," winked the Prince.

"I would not be so sure," the Princess said as she patted his hand while the King walked in with the doctor.

"I am not as strong as I thought," the Prince said as the doctor began his examination. "I just need a bit more rest."

The doctor asked the King and the Princess to leave while he examined the Prince. The prescription for more rest was exactly what the doctor suggested. However, he was allowed visitors, so after a bit more rest, the Princess came to visit him.

"Because of your little stunt," stated the Princess coldly. "They are not going to let you out of this bed."

"I know," replied the Prince. "I had to talk the doctor out of strapping me down like they did in Calmondak."

"I am not sure," added the Princess with a wink. "Are you this way because your head is too hard or too soft?"

"Do not make me call the doctor and have him take you away!"

"If you do not keep it down, you will not have to call him."

"Are you sure you do not wish to marry me?"

"Where did that come from?"

"It is just that my father would be pleased, and we have known each other for a long time. I think we would be good together."

"You are delirious!"

"I am serious."

"Here is the thing. I have plans. I cannot follow through with these plans if I am forced to be someone's wife."

"Is being a wife and mother so bad?"

"Of course not, but that is not the only options out there."

"What are you talking about?"

"If I am married to you, everyone will expect certain things from me. Things that I cannot follow through on."

"Where did you get these ideas?"

"That is not important. What is important is that I keep my options open. It is important for both me and you."

"How so?"

"If you were married to me and I ran the kingdom, how would that reflect on you?"

"I would never let you do that."

"You would do as I say. Thus, you may think you run things, but everyone else would know who did. It would reflect poorly upon you, and that is why we can never wed."

"What?"

"If I cannot do things my way, I would rather die."

"You cannot be serious."

"What you do not understand is that you have options. You can do and be just about anything. Women can only be wives and mothers. I want -- no demand -- to also have options. If we marry, I lose those options."

"We could work something out."

"I suppose you are right. Like I could kill you! Right here and right now!"

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Kill me?" asked Prince William. "You do not have the nerve for that sort of thing."

"Are you sure?" inquired Princess Angelina with a look of menace.

"I am pretty sure," replied the Prince a little nervously.

"When you are entirely sure, then we can discuss your proposal again."

"But..."

"Not until then!"

"Very well."

"It is clear to me, that you need some more rest; thus, I will leave you for now."

"But..."

"Rest!" demanded the Princess as she left the Prince's bedside.

Things were not going the Princess's way. She had not anticipated the Prince's feelings. Further, she had not anticipated her own feelings towards the Prince. Her plans had just become greatly more complicated. It was all she could do to get out of the room before accepting his proposal. She could not believe she was actually considering it.

She had to find some place to think. She needed to restore her resolve. She knew she was right about what other kings would think about kings with strong wives. She did not want the conflicts, which go along with weak kings, to follow Prince William. Hence, she knew she could never marry him. She knew it. However, that did not diminish her feelings for him.

She found a quiet spot with a window that looked out over the kingdom. She sat there and pondered. She was completely lost in thought when King Thorbjorn sat next to her.

"He will be fine," assured the King.

"What?" the Princess replied with a start. "Oh yes. I know."

"So, what are you thinking about?"

"Oh nothing -- I was just wondering what happens next."

"You do not wish to marry my son do you?"

"I am not ready to make that decision," the Princess lied. "Perhaps I am too young."

"You are young -- and beautiful."

"Thank you. That's sweet of you to say."

"Sweet?" replied the King with a slightly raised voice. "I have had people severely punished for using such words."

"I did not mean anything by it."

"I should take you over my knee...."

"Please -- no offense was meant."

However, there was no persuading the King. He grabbed the Princess and dragged her away from the window. The Princess was unable to resist the strength of the King. She fought, but the King easily dragged her into a nearby private room.

Suddenly, the Princess knew that the offense was merely an excuse to get her alone. He began pawing at her clothes.

"Stop!" shouted the Princess with a look that could stop running water.

Surprised at himself, the King stopped. He felt powerless under the spell the Princess's look held over him. He stood there shaking. He attempted to move, but he could not.

"That is better," the Princess said after a few moments. "You may be a powerful King, but you have no power over me. You will cease your advances or there will be great consequences."

The King tried to move towards her, but her deepening look grabbed him and held him still.

"If you do not wish to feel my wrath and what it entails, you will do as I say."

The King attempted to say something, but the displeasure of the Princess had some sort of powerful control over him. He fought it for a few more moments and then collapsed upon the floor.

"You may think that it is good to be the king, but there is no way that you will touch the daughter of King Jonathan of Calmondak against her will."

"Yes miss," the King squeaked.

"Now," stated the Princess sternly. "You will cede the land you promised my father to me."

"I will what?" asked the King as the Princess's hold on him began to fade.

"For me bringing you your son, and for me not telling your wife -- or my father -- about what you just attempted, you will give me the treaty lands."

"I will not."

"Very well," stated the Princess as she left the room.

She left her dress in the slightly rumpled condition caused by the King. She asked a few members of the household staff on where she could find the Queen. The fury was obvious to all those who saw her, and everyone immediately bent to her wishes.

The King had already spoken to the Queen when Princess Angelina arrived. The King was sitting proudly upon a chair as the Princess began to speak.

"Your Highness," the Princess began with a bow. "I can hardly believe what I am about to tell you."

"Is this about my husband's fidelity?" asked the Queen.

"Hardly!" replied the Princess.

"What?" asked the King with a shocked look upon his face.

"The sexual conquests of the King are hardly any of my affair."

"Then what?" asked the Queen.

"This is about honor," responded the Princess. "The King attempted to dishonor me and my family, and you and your family my good Queen."

"He did?" asked the Queen. "How so?"

"He treated me like a household servant," stated the Princess. "I am a guest in this house, and he acted as if I was obliged to him."

"He did show you disrespect there," replied the Queen.

"Further, he gave you not one thought," insisted the Princess. "He did not even consider how you would feel about his actions with another Princess. One he had wished to marry, but was spurned."

"Is this true?" the Queen asked the King.

"I -- uh -- but -- uh..." muttered the King attempted to lie but unable to because of the glare of Princess Angelina. "Yes."

"So you lied to me. She did not attempt to lure you into a situation that looked compromising and then attempt to blackmail you." demanded the Queen.

"I -- uh... Yes."

"You will give her what she wants for your disgraceful and disrespectful actions?"

"I -- um," stumbled the King as he was getting the evil eye from both women present. "Yes I will."

"He will have the written document for you by morning," asserted the Queen.

"Your Highness is kind and gracious," Princess Angelina said to the Queen. "I will leave your court when the paper is in my possession."

"That is wise," replied the Queen. "We would not wish any more incidents of dishonor."

"By your leave," the Princess stated as she left the room.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William woke up, and felt stronger than he had in months. The weeks of rest had done its job. He believed he was fully healed and ready to get out of bed. However, by his father's orders, the doctors strapped him to the bed. Thus, he could not get up immediately. He had to wait for someone to free him.

Since being strapped in, the Prince had been asking about Princess Angelina, but no one would answer his questions. He found it odd that she had not visited for several days or was it more. It was difficult for him to track time. He pondered her disappearance, and hoped that his family had not harmed her. Her strong will had often gotten her into trouble, and he hoped that she had not worn out her welcome.

His father, King Thorbjorn, came to visit him, and the King allowed the doctors to free him from his straps. Today was the day he would get out of that bed. He was quite ready.

"Where is Princess Angelina?" the Prince asked the King.

"It is a lovely day out today," the King replied.

"And, the Princess?"

"Since you are feeling better, we should go for a short walk."

"Are you going to tell me about the Princess?"

"I want to wait until you are strong enough. We do not want you to have a relapse."

"Where is she?"

"She is gone."

"Gone? Gone where?"

"That one is very insistent."

"Father, what have you done?"

"Done? Me? Nothing!"

"So, why do you not tell me where she is?"

"Is gone not good enough?"

"No father it is not."

"My guess is that she has left to the Treaty Land."

"You gave her that land?"

"She can be quite insistent. That one is quite strong willed."

"And all of that Prophecy business..."

"Oh that!" responded the King with a wave of his hand. "That was just a lie to motivate you to find her."

"So you do not believe that she will unite the kingdoms because she returned me to you."

"Hey! She did fulfill the terms of it..."

"Yes she did, and now she has a kingdom of her own."

"She is just a single young girl, what kind of power could she wield?"

"You know exactly what power."

"Ah yes, I have seen it in action. She does have a way to bend people to her will."

"With just a look..."

"Wooh! a powerful look indeed."

"And you unleashed that onto the world."

"The unaffiliated raiders and pirates will have her running back to her father in no time."

"You may be right, but I would not count on that."

"We can only wait and see."

"No, I am going after her."

"You are still weak. You should rest some more."

"I do not have a moment to lose."

"You do not even know where to look for her. She may have simply gone home to make some arrangements."

"That is where I am headed first," replied the Prince as he got out of bed.

"Are you sure you are able?"

"I can make it!" the Prince stated in a remarkably strong tone as he arose.

He wobbled a bit because he had been in bed for quite a while. He was light-headed and he nearly fell. Nonetheless, his determination was strong and he managed to get himself together without help.

Dressing was quite an adventure for him. He had never remembered having such difficulties with such a simple task. He had to rest several times before he successfully finished putting on his clothes.

The same could be said about packing. While he felt strong after he rested, he did not have the stamina to walk back and forth in his room for very long. Hence, he had to rest often as he put clothes into a case.

After he finished those tasks, he began the arduous job of carrying the case to a suncar. Once again, he had to rest every couple of feet. However, he did not wish to be treated like a child; thus, he insisted upon carrying his own luggage. That is why it was mid-afternoon before he was ready to go. He had successfully packed his car, but after the strain, he needed a nap. Thus, he did not leave as early as he had hoped.

It did not matter that much, because he did not know where he was going. He told the King that he was headed to Calmondak, but he was not sure that was the wisest course of action. The entire time he was packing, he pondered if he should go there or the treaty land. Where should he start looking for her? Would the Princess gather some resources from home and then head to her kingdom? Or, would she explore her kingdom first to see what she would need?

Furthermore, he had the feeling that he was not wanted in Calmondak. His injuries occurred in that kingdom. Would they inflict more bodily harm onto him now? That was something he had to consider. He feared for his life for much of his time returning from the Forbidden Zone. He had not told anybody about his experiences there. There would be time later.

Map of the Kingdoms

"Do not go son," King Thorbjorn stated as he stood before the suncar.

"You know that I must father."

"We can find you a suitable bride."

"It is not that."

"Then what?"

"She could be my only chance for a kingdom."

"I am afraid that I cannot argue with that. Are you really headed back to Calmondak?"

"I have changed my mind. I am heading to the lands you gave her. My life may be in grave danger if I return to Calmondak. She will eventually show up in the treaty lands, so I shall wait."

"It could take her quite a while."

"I have what I need to survive. The outdoorsman skills you taught me will allow me to wait for several months in that wild country."

"Since I cannot prevent you from going, I bid you farewell -- and be careful."

"I shall. So long father."

The Prince pointed his suncar south and drove away from the castle complex. It would take him a while to reach the Princess's new kingdom, but it would not be a strenuous journey. He just hoped he was strong enough to make it there.

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Reunited...

Chapter Twenty-Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

King Thorbjorn watched as his son drove away from the castle complex. As soon as the suncar was no longer visible, the King went to work. Princess Angelina had made a fool of him. While only the Queen was aware of it, the experience burned within him. Thus, he was determined to teach the young woman a lesson.

Since his queen was involved in the entire affair, the King had to make sure it looked innocent enough. He would have to execute his plans in secret. While he desperately wanted to simply declare war on the newly formed kingdom, he could not do that. At least, he could not do that while Angelina was sovereign of that nation. Hence, he needed that kingdom to fail.

Thus, it would require a great deal of skullduggery. The king would have to begin some covert actions to cause conflict in the newly established kingdom. He knew just how to do it too. After all, he had been dealing with raiders and pirates for some time.

In the guise of a diplomatic mission, the King prepared to leave Lakeland. He told his subjects that it was a delicate mission; thus, he could only take a small entourage. A full compliment was slow and obvious. The King wanted to be a bit more inconspicuous. Thus, he stated that he would not need his full retinue. It also meant that his Queen would not join him. This was a very important part of his plan.

While his personal safety could not be completely assured with this group, he knew he could hand pick his traveling companions. That was another key component of his plan. He wanted to be assured that he could trust those with him.

Many asked why he could not send an emissary. After all, it would be much safer to send an expendable ambassador. The King had anticipated this question. Thus, he had formulated a response. He told them that this mission was quite sensitive, and the party in question would not accept anyone else. The importance of the mission, he told them, required that he take the risk. His personal attention was required.

In the past, this meant that King Thorbjorn was going to meet a mistress. However, those were planned well in advance. This was a spur of the moment event. The castle staff did not know what to make of the situation.

The hand-picked group would be fast and discrete. Since this was a last minute trip, most of the King's enemies would not know where he was. Let alone that he had left the castle. Further, since he would have the ability to move quickly, his group could ferry him out of harm's way with relative ease. Therefore, the King did not worry much about his safety. He thought he would be safe enough.

The King made all of the arrangements for pending activities in the kingdom. He set up all the protocols for decisions to be made while he was away. He realized how much work that had to be taken care of without him. That is why he never made spur of the moment trips. Nonetheless, he was unsure of the activities of the Princess. Thus, he had to put his plan into action quickly. Hence, that was the way things had to be.

Furthermore, the King had to make arrangements for any spies. Only the most trusted individuals must know of his journey. If the King's enemies knew he was away from the castle, they would pounce. They would either attack the castle complex itself, or track down King Thorbjorn. Thus, a ruse must be arranged for those watching the King and his family.

The King met privately with his Queen. She was going to be an important part of the diversion. She had to act as if the King were still in the castle the entire time he was gone. Thus, he made sure that he paid attention to her. He was quite affectionate. In this way, he smoothed over the previous incident.

When the suncars were packed, the small caravan left the castle complex as arranged. Few knew who was in the caravan or its mission. For most, it looked like any other envoy for the King's business. Most would not have guessed that the King was among the departing castle dwellers.

With the secret mission underway, the King was the only person who knew the destination of the mission. He did not even tell the members of the team where they were headed. He simply directed the lead car as they went. Nevertheless, the entire caravan soon became keenly aware that they were not headed towards friendly territory.

There was an unsteady peace with the kingdom bordering Lakeland to the east. The King had won the peace by marrying his Queen. This was the kingdom from which she hailed. On the boarder of this kingdom was where they camped the first night.

They had taken the ancient road through Lakeland, but when they needed to travel outside his kingdom the party would need to wind their way on less traveled roads. It would be a great deal quicker to stay on the main system, but it would also be vastly more dangerous. Thus, they stuck to secondary roads when they broke camp.

The group continued heading southeast. The kingdom on the other side of his wife's former land, was outright hostile towards Lakeland and its king. In fact, they were hostile to all outsiders. They would occasionally raid nearby kingdoms, but they could not sustain any sort of invasion. They were feared, but they had inferior technology to its neighbors. Hence, a peace of sorts could be obtained.

After another night camping, he directed the caravan into that kingdom. The entire entourage now knew how much danger they were in. They would be in deep trouble if anyone caught them. Thus, they had to be very careful.

After making their way into the heart of hostile territory, the King directed the caravan to head to the Pirate Peninsula. That is when everyone knew that if things did not go well, they would be in for some major fighting.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty

By Douglas E. Gogerty

While Prince William and King Thorbjorn were heading to areas south of Lakeland, Princess Angelina returned to her father's castle in Calmondak. She had much news to share with her father.

"Father," began the Princess in their formal meeting.

"Yes...?" the King responded with a skeptic voice.

"I have acquired my own kingdom."

"What?"

"King Thorbjorn has given me the Treaty Lands."

"Why?"

"It is a long story, which you do not need to hear."

"As you wish."

"Naturally, I know little about running a kingdom."

"I will have my best people aid you in establishing this kingdom of yours."

"Thank you. I was hoping you would say that."

"What will you call this land, and where will you establish your castle complex?"

"I have not decided on a name yet. There is time for that. As for a castle, there is a centrally located building complex that I would like to use."

"Establishing a castle is an important first step. Do you know anything about that castle?"

"I was going to visit it first, but I believe it is suitable."

"If memory serves, there is nothing tall and grand in those lands. At least, there is nothing similar to the castle here."

"The complex I chose has a lake nearby...."

"So water should not be a concern...."

"No. Thankfully. It is a lovely spot."

"Good. Now when is the wedding?"

"Wedding? What wedding?"

"I assume this kingdom will be run by Prince William after your wedding."

"You would assume incorrectly."

"So, who will run the kingdom?"

"I will."

"You?"

"Yes Father, I am capable of taking care of things."

"But running a kingdom requires a man's touch."

"You are impossible!" the Princess exclaimed in exasperation.

"What?" responded the King with a shrug.

"You have access to the ancient records. There were numerous female leaders in ancient time, and you know it."

"That was then. This is now."

"What does that mean?"

"Times have changed. What will you do about the raiders?"

"I will handle them."

"How?"

"In my own way. No one else's tactics have worked, so a different approach may be warranted."

"What about advances from other kingdoms?"

"We will cross those bridges when we come to it. I assume that my kingdom and yours will be allied."

"Certainly."

"I also do not expect trouble from Lakeland."

"I would not be so sure."

"Someone in that court is strongly on my side."

"Do not underestimate King Thorbjorn's treachery."

"You do not have to worry about that. I also will not underestimate yours."

"Dear!"

"Father, I know you..."

"I guess you do. Is there anything else you need?"

"Can I get a couple of those fast cars?"

"Fast cars?"

"Some people in the Forbidden Zone drove them. My suncar could not keep up."

"Oh those cars! Well, those cars are not to stray far from their home base."

"Why is that?"

"For one thing, they run on compressed gas. There are no gas stations outside the zone."

"I am sure that can be easily rectified."

"For another, they are made with technology that I do not wish others to possess."

"Not even me?"

"As you are aware, these cars travel much faster than suncars. Further, they can travel at night without a reduction in performance. If they were to get into the wrong hands..."

"They would also be helpful to me should I get into trouble."

"I -- uh -- yes. I will make the arrangements, but you can only have one."

"That will do -- for now."

An entourage left in suncars in advance of the Princess's departure. Their task was to establish the castle complex prior to her arrival. She wished to view it in person first, but the car situation changed everything. In this way, she had to trust her father's advisory team.

The Princess was anxious to get going, but she understood the reason for the delay. She knew that her father did not wish his little girl to get into trouble. However, it was well too late for that. The Princess was regularly getting into trouble. In fact, it did not start with her running away to the Forbidden Zone either. She managed to get into trouble well before then.

Nonetheless, she was getting restless. In fact, she began plotting trouble just so that the King would be glad to be rid of her. She pondered on what she could do to force the King to deliver the car. However, those plans were unnecessary as the compressed air car (or CAC as the King calls them) was delivered after several days.

The King also gave her a mobile solar powered compressor. In that way, she could refill the vehicle on her journey to her kingdom. A gas station would be unnecessary. A technician taught her how to work the compressor.

The device was simple, and she soon learned as much as she could about it. Her father's engineers built the thing on an ancient air compressor design. The only difference is that it ran on solar power. Thus, she could set it up in the sun to fill its tank. Then, when her CAC's tank was empty, she could refill it with the now full tank.

She thought of several improvements when she learned how the vehicle worked. A cross between the suncar and the CAC should be workable. Using sun power to compress the air while in transit should not be much trouble. That could possibly increase the range of the vehicle. She also thought that the portable compressor tank should be the same as the CAC's tank. In that way, a refill process would not be necessary. A quick swap of the tanks would be all that was required.

Those improvements would have to wait. Perhaps her own kingdom would develop those cars. In her mind, the Princess had spent too much time in Calmondak as it was. Thus, she was ready to go when the CAC arrived.

However, she did not anticipate the spare tank. Thus, she filled the spare compressor tank on the first day. At first, she thought about driving at night and recharging the air tank during the day. However, she decided against that and left the next day.

It was cloudy and rainy on the day she wished to leave. At first, she thought she would have to postpone her trip for one more day. However, the CAC used different technology than the suncar. It was not fully dependant on the solar energy, so it could travel during cloudy and rainy weather. Hence, the Princess left without delay.

Further, because of the CAC's speed and range, she made such good time that the entourage did not have much time to get anything ready at her castle complex. The old suncars where hampered by weather. Thus, the Princess did not have to rely fully on her father's advisors. She could make decisions on her own.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

King Thorbjorn and his small entourage headed into the Pirate Penninsula. There was a government there, but to outsiders it seemed quite ineffectual. It appeared that the government leaders spent all of their time arguing and not actually governing. From an outside perspective, these leaders spent all of their efforts pandering to the mob. With this form of government, there was no one to stop the raiding and the piracy. Nowhere would you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Nonetheless, it was a place where anything could be purchased, and that is what King Thorbjorn wanted. He planned to purchase a few raids upon Princess Angelina's newly formed kingdom. He could contact several people for this purpose; however, he had to speak to the provincial government first. The King very much wanted to get in and out of the peninsula as fast as he could, but he could not do anything without the permission of the area authority.

The government required a transaction permit was required for any business to take place on the peninsula. In other words, the government wanted its cut on anything that went on within its jurisdiction. The King just thought of it as a bribe.

Fortunately, the governmental establishment was not out of the way. It was on the northern part of the peninsula on the coast. Thus, the trip, while still dangerous, was not arduous. There were many major roads heading in and out of the capitol.

The King and his group arrived at the statehouse at midday. He told one of the guards that he wished to see the governor. The King laughed to himself because the thought of the man he was about to meet governing was funny to him. It seemed to the king that the man pandered to the people in every conceivable way. At no point did he feel that the governor actually led anyone. He felt that this governor just bent to the will of the people.

"Good afternoon sir!" greeted the governor's office assistant. "How can i help you?"

"I came to see the governor -- miss," replied the King a little miffed that their government would be so backwards as to hire women.

"And whom may I say is asking?" she responded with a similar condescending tone.

"I am King Thorbjorn of Lakeland!" he shouted at the top of his lungs.

"Please have a seat," the office assistant replied unintimidatedly. "He will be with you as soon as he can."

"Did you not hear me? I am the King of Lakeland!"

"Well I did not vote for you, so please have a seat."

The King stormed away, but he refused to sit down. He paced like a caged tiger until the governor's office assistant informed him that he could see the governor.

"How dare you keep me waiting!" raged the King at the governor.

"Your visit is most unexpected," whimpered the governor. "If you had an appointment..."

"Appointment? I am the king of the largest kingdom in Morica. Do you really expect me to make an appointment?"

"Sorry -- it is just..."

"Enough of this small talk. Let us get down to business."

"Very well -- what business?"

"I need a permit to do business with a few of your citizens."

"My secretary could have handled that."

"Have you not been listening? I am the King of Lakeland!"

"Oh right, I apologize."

"I have wasted enough time here. Tell me what you want."

"What type of business transaction is it?"

"Nautical."

"How much is the transaction worth?"

"How should I know?"

"Any estimate?"

"I do not know. It will probably be a lot!"

"Less than a million gold pieces?"

"I should certainly hope so."

"Are goods being traded?"

"I am purchasing a service. No goods are involved."

"So, a commercial transaction for less than a million is 1000 gold, plus another 500 for the nautical permit. I will waive the rush processing fee. Thus, the total will be 1500 gold pieces."

"Robbery! I will not pay such an exorbitant price!"

"I could add the 100 for processing the request immediately..."

"You sir are a thief!"

The King waved at one of his men, and the man produced a case. Out of the case he counted out 1500 gold pieces.

"I wish you would have informed me that you were paying cash," the governor said shyly. "There is an additional 100 for cash handling."

"What!?!!" stated the King sternly.

"We will handle it. It was an oversight on my part. I should have asked how you intended to pay. It is just that I am not involved in these things often."

"Are we through?"

"We need to process the request and issue the permit. It will take a bit. You can take advantage of the commissary while you wait."

"Wait!?!!"

"You will need the permit to make the transaction. It will take a few minutes to type it up. We will have to an the accountant count the gold. A few minutes will be required to type your receipt."

"What?"

"These things take time. We will rush it through..."

"I will wait here until it is done to make sure that you do!"

The governor gave the request to his office assistant, and she typed in the information. Her fingers flew along the typing device. A short time later, a knock came at the door. Another woman walked in with the printed permit. The governor immediately signed it and handed it to King Thorbjorn.

The King began to leave, but the governor reminded him that the transaction would not be complete until the gold was counted. The accountant had not yet arrived. Thus, they had to wait for several minutes. Another knock at the door, and a third woman arrived. She was the accountant. She carefully counted the gold coins. Once she was through, she counted them again.

She typed the information into her little device, and out came a sheet of paper. She handed three gold pieces and the paper to the governor. Without a word, the accountant left the room. The governor handed the receipt and the three gold pieces to the king. The transaction was complete, and the King was now able to continue on his journey.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With her castle complex set in place, Princess Angelina could explore her kingdom. At first, she thought about using her CAC (Compressed Air Car), but she was going to be a part of an entourage. She did not dare travel across her kingdom alone. Further, she did not want to show off her new technology right away. Since the suncar was well established, she and her group would travel together in suncars to meet her new people.

Furthermore, while meeting her subjects, she wanted to learn more about them. She wanted to discover what kind of technologies they had to offer. Since her father had a lot of technology that he did not share, she wondered what things others had that she may not know about. She was quite curious about these things. She really liked learning about new technologies.

Further, since necessity was the mother of invention, the regular raids may have brought up solutions. Often people come up with novel ways to handle situations. At least, the Princess wanted to know the solutions that some residents used. Certainly they had to do something to fight against the raiders.

In addition, if the Princess thought that some technology might be useful for more people, she planned to spread it around. Not to mention, she could get others to see if they could improve these technologies. This is one of the things she really liked about technology.

The Princess realized that her father exploited a technology gap to stay in power. The Princess hoped to do the same. If she could use technology to improve the lives of her people, they would certainly wish to keep her around. At the very least, she would be able to recruit people to fight for her. This could be very helpful to her.

Moreover, she was going to see if her charms could work towards her goals. She would flirt with citizens all over her kingdom and determine if it helped her achieve her goals. If someone were reluctant to discuss their technologies, she would attempt to use her beauty to change his (or her) mind. In her limited test, she did get what she wanted with a wink or a few words. Thus, she was hopeful.

All over her kingdom, her citizens greeted the Princess warmly. For most, the change in leadership meant very little. Since the Princess did not plan to treat her residents more harshly or tax them a great deal more, the power change would not affect their lives. Most expected to just go on with their lives.

Nonetheless, the citizens did enjoy meeting royalty. Hence, crowds of people cheered the Princess as she came to the various towns. Obviously, with the greeting, she felt very good about her kingdom. However, she realized that she would need to change her title. No longer was she Princess Angelina of Calmondak. She was a sovereign now. Was she going to be Queen Angelina? Perhaps she would have her subjects call her Empress Angelina. Would her small kingdom count as an empire? Perhaps she should take something else. Maybe she would invent her own title. For now, she continued to call herself princess.

After all, she had other things to consider. For instance, she would have to determine a name for her kingdom. She had only known this part of Lakeland as The Treaty Land. Did it have another name? Would she have to make something up?

Further, she wanted her title to fit with the name of the kingdom. She wanted her title and kingdom to roll off the tongue easily. She laughed at herself for thinking about these trivialities. However, they were things she needed to consider at some point. She realized that there was more to establishing a kingdom than just declaring it so. She would get to these small things when she was ready. For now, she was enjoying meeting her subjects.

As she traveled around, she eventually met someone unexpected.

"What are you doing here?" asked the Princess.

"I have been waiting for you," replied Prince William.

"Why would you do something that stupid?"

"Because we are good together."

"You have not heard a word I have told you."

"Sure I have."

"Then why are you here?"

"I told you, because we are good together."

"That is not it."

"What?"

"You think that you have a shot at a kingdom by coming to see me."

"Why do you think that?"

"Because I know you."

"I suppose you do at that. Anyway, we could run an excellent kingdom together."

"However, this kingdom is mine."

"We could run it as a couple."

"You know we could not."

"Why do you say that?"

"Like I said, you have not heard a word that I have said."

"I have too. I just disagree with your conclusion."

"Listen, if there was a kingdom where the king made none of the decisions, did none of the adjudications, did none of the administrative kingdom running, what would you think of him?"

"I would think he was something special."

"Let me rephrase that, what would your father think of him?"

"He would probably think he was a weakling," replied Prince William meekly.

"How would he react to this weakling?"

"He would probably invade his kingdom."

"Exactly!"

"But I am his son. He would never invade with me here."

"If you think that being one of his many children would matter, you do not know your own father very well."

"I guess..."

"Further, he is not the only one who would think that the kingdom was week."

"You may be right, but they are going to think the same thing with you running the kingdom. So, what is the difference?"

"My availability changes the equation."

"Wow! You think very highly of yourself."

"On the contrary, I think very lowly of them," replied the Princess confidently. "Those kings outside of my kingdom will attempt to build their kingdom through marriage rather than conflict. In this way, I should be able to sway them. However, if I am married, that sort of alliance would be out of the question."

"So you do not want me here."

"While I sympathize with your desire to have your own kingdom, I cannot help you."

"Is that your last word?"

"I should not have had to spell it out for you, but yes."

"So what am I supposed to do now?"

"I suggest you leave the area before your father sends some raiders here."

"He would not dare!"

"Obviously, you do not know your father very well do you?"

"What makes you think he would do such a thing?"

"Because he wants this land back."

"Why would he not just take it back directly?"

"That is complicated, but let us just say his queen would forbid it."

"Still, he would never."

"I would not be surprised to find out that he is attempting to purchase raiders at this very moment to do his work for him."

"Impossible!"

"I bet if you contacted someone in Lakeland, they will tell you that King Thorbjorn is away."

"What will you wager?"

"Well, if I win, you have to let me run my kingdom my way. In other words, leave me alone."

"And if I win?"

"I will marry you."

"Deal! There is no way my father is away from Lakeland at a time like this!"

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

King Thorbjorn had his permit as he began looking for someone to raid Princess Angelina's new kingdom. There were plenty of individuals willing to take the work in the Pirate Peninsula. However, the King had a particular group in mind; thus, he had some searching to do.

In the past, the King had dealt with a man known as The Shrub. He was a powerful and respected man. Further, he had many connections, and therefore went by a pseudonym to protect his legitimate business deals. The King did not know from where this name originated, but it mattered little. He was the man, who the king wanted to hire to get things done.

It took several days for the King's emissaries to find the men to whom he wished to speak. Eventually, the King's people arranged a meeting with The Shrub's people. In this way, the negotiations could begin. It was just the first step.

"There is a new kingdom forming," stated the King to the representative of The Shrub.

"How does this concern us?" asked the man.

"It is in my best interest that this kingdom fails."

"And...?"

"If my interests are realized, then benefits could flow your way."

"If the benefits are right, I am sure we could assist you."

"I will only discuss the details with the man himself."

"The Shrub is a busy man. He is not to be disturbed by trifling details."

"We have done business in the past. Face-to-face is the only way I will continue this discussion."

"Then we are finished here then?"

"I guess so."

"I cannot persuade you to deal with me?"

"No you cannot."

"In that case, I will take your proposal to the boss. Perhaps, someone will get back to you."

"That is all I can ask."

The meeting was short. However, the King was optimistic for the results. The pirate always ran his business this way. He always sent a representative to check things. If everything seemed fine, then a meeting could be arranged. Again, The Shrub was cautious. This is how he kept hold of his power.

The King met with others for backup. If the deal he preferred to make fell through, he wanted others in line to make new arrangements quickly. In this way, he would not be wasting the waiting time. He had spoken to several groups when he got word that negotiations could continue. He would meet with The Shrub.

However, he was informed that it was going to take several days to make the arrangements. Once again, instead of waiting the King met with a few more groups. He would not waste his time waiting. He thought that perhaps he could get the entire peninsula involved. The drawback on that would be that it would cost too much. However, the King thought that perhaps that would not be entirely bad.

Finally, the day came to meet with The Shrub. It was at this meeting that he would find out if a deal could be struck. If it could, then he could see to all of the arrangements.

"Glad to see you again," the man said.

"Good to see you," replied the King.

"I understand you would like to make some sort of arrangement."

"I would indeed."

"Let me hear the details."

"On the other side of the gulf from this peninsula is some land that used to belong to me. I was curious to how good are their defenses."

"And you do not invade because...?"

"I did not mention the part about no questions asked?"

"I beg your pardon. Please, give us some details -- whatever you are comfortable with."

"It is a new kingdom. The monarch is young, and may not consider defenses as a priority."

"You want us to make it fail?"

"I think a few excursions would make this young monarch ally themselves with a friendly and large kingdom."

"Who is this monarch?"

"I was sure I mentioned no questions asked..."

"Fine," responded the man with a bow. "What do we get in return?"

"I will double the payment I made last time," replied the King.

"Double?"

"It was a considerable sum. You do not find this sufficient?"

"This is a major undertaking..."

"I am not asking you to invade and take over the country. I would like you to test its defenses. Nevertheless, if you cannot handle it, I will find someone who will. In fact, I have lined up some alternatives already. However, I thought I would give you first chance because of our previous successful transaction."

"Do we keep the plunder?"

"If there is any, you may keep what you find."

"Where is my head? Do you have the proper permit?"

"Of course," the King replied showing the man his certificate.

"It appears that your paperwork is in order," replied the man as he looked over the document.

"As I have alluded to many times, I have done business here in the past."

"So, when would you like this transaction to be completed?"

"You can begin as soon as you like, but I do not expect you to finish until after the storm season. I will not pay extra for the risks."

"So, you want a couple of raids after the stormy season and we keep the plunder. Is that the agreement?"

"I do not remember saying any of that."

"Understood. We have a deal," the man said offering the King his hand.

"Thank you. I will send half the payment before the storm season ends, and the other half when the job is done."

"That will be fine. It has been a pleasure seeing and doing business with you again."

"I hope we can do this again sometime," replied the King with a slight bow.

The King and his party left the room, and walked to their waiting suncars. When they arrived, the King shouted, "Let's go!"

"What is it?" asked a member of the King's entourage.

"That was not The Shrub. We could be in big trouble if we do not get out of here fast."

The group of suncars started to head away, but some guards blocked their exit. The King ordered them to break through the blockade, so the entourage did not stop.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William had to travel several miles before he found a communication station. During the water wars, communication was the first thing that the opposing sides would disrupt. Hence, in some regions, the communication lines were quite thin. This was particularly the case in unimportant regions of kingdoms. The Princess's new kingdom was one such place.

The Prince felt the travel was well worth the effort, as he was anxious to prove Princess Angelina wrong. He would then have her hand in marriage. He was sure his father was still in Lakeland. After all, why would King Thorbjorn leave? The transfer of sovereignty always required some preparation. The King would need to handle much of those items. Therefore, the King would need to be available to sign things, etc.

The Prince entered in the code for the Lakeland castle complex, and waited for the connection.

"Hello," stated the voice on the other end of the line.

"It is Prince William calling for King Thorbjorn," replied the Prince.

"Oh! thank goodness you called."

"What -- what has happened?"

"Your father has been kidnapped by some pirates."

"Kidnapped? Pirates? Where?"

"He was on a secret mission to the Pirate Peninsula, and someone there grabbed him."

The Prince let out a big sigh, and then continued.

"So, what is being done about it?" he asked in a disappointed tone.

"Nothing."

"Nothing -- why?"

"Naturally, none of the heirs wish to risk anything to get him back."

"Naturally."

"The group that have him are asking for a small ransom to get him back."

"... but no one wants to raise the money."

"That is right."

"Typical."

"The King was hoping that you would come get him."

"Me?"

"He said you were rather close. Are you?"

"Me and him close? Hardly."

"Close geographically."

"Oh! I suppose that is true."

"He also told me to mention that he would make it well worth your while."

"I am guessing he did not give you any specifics..."

"None."

"How much is the ransom?"

"5000 gold pieces."

"5000? I would have to come there to raise such a sum."

"The King says that the funds can be obtained there if you just come right away."

"I see," the Prince stated with suspicion. "He stashed some money before they grabbed him."

"That is probably true."

"So, where is he?"

"He is being held somewhere in the Capitol of the peninsula."

"If the King calls, tell him I am on my way."

"Will do!"

The Prince terminated the communication and headed back to the Princess. She was preparing for some sort of expedition of her own when he returned.

"You won," stated the Prince with a downtrodden expression on his face.

"Won what?" asked the Princess.

"Our bet. The King is in the Pirate Peninsula as we speak."

"He is quite transparent."

"Apparently to you he is."

"In any event, I hope you live up to the conditions of our wager."

"I will. I will leave at first light."

"No interference."

"No interference," replied the Prince with a sigh.

"Very good -- and have a pleasant journey."

"Thanks."

The Prince was not as important as the King was. Thus, he could easily travel alone. He was not an heir to the throne, so he had no ransom value. He was unlikely ever to gain a kingdom, so he had little power to wield. Thus, he could travel just about anywhere alone.

He thought about hiring a boat to take him to the Capitol, but the water route was fraught with danger. Not only was there danger from pirates and raiders, but also storms could arise suddenly. Thus, he decided to take his suncar. It would probably take at least a day longer depending upon the weather, but it was well worth it.

Furthermore, unlike his father, he could travel the main roads. If there were any news flowing in the peninsula, the citizenry would be looking for someone bringing the ransom. Hence, the Prince would not be in much danger. There was the threat of ambush, but he did not actually have the ransom on him. Therefore, if someone stopped him, that individual would not get anything. Hence, he would be mostly safe to do his work.

The Prince gathered all his belongings and drove away from the Princess's castle complex at first light. He did not anticipate that he would ever return. In fact, he did not think he would ever see Princess Angelina again. He was saddened by this, but she had won the wager. He wanted to be a man of his word. Thus, he planned on living up to his part of the bet.

The Prince drove for most of the day, but it was clear that a storm was brewing. His suncar was not capable of full power. In fact, towards the end of the day, but still far from dusk, it got quite dark. He went as far as he could and set up camp. He found a concrete building near the road to use if it got really bad.

It was a good thing too, because the next morning was worse. It was as if the sun had not even arose. The Prince felt vindicated on his choice of driving. At sea, the ship would be taking a beating from the storm. It might not have even made it to its final destination. At least here, he had protection from the storm. He felt very grateful for the concrete structure in which he found himself.

With the storm raging, it was going to take a few extra days to get to his father. However, citizens in this part of Morica were used to the delays. This was particularly true during the stormy season. The storms grew quite ferocious in this area.

The storm blew hard for the one day, but as it pushed north it lost steam. On the second day, it was just rain. There was enough light to give the suncar some power. Thus, the Prince pushed on towards his father.

Once he reached the Capitol, he would have to find his father. Once that was accomplished, he would need to find the stash of money. The ransom would be paid, and then they could hopefully all leave together. It was going to be a busy time for the next few days.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina was still packing when the big storm hit. She was nearly all prepared for her trip, so she was delayed. This did not sit well with her because she was quite excited about the entire thing. She considered leaving anyway, but she was convinced of the folly of it. After all, who would come see her in torrential rains?

Hence, she left well after the storm had passed. It did get time for her transition team to arrange stops ahead of time. This allowed them to scout locations and prepare for her arrival. Thus, the tour would be much better planned because of the storm.

The crowds on her first top were small but enthusiastic. For most, this was just another change at the top. It did not usually effect those closer to the bottom. In other words, the change in status for the people did not mean much.

In fact, sometimes a change like this meant war. The new kingdom could be the result of an uneasy treaty. Further, it could be the result of a bribe or to soothe bad feelings. These new situations could lead to uneasiness. This was not something the average person wanted. Hence, if it were not required, the people would not celebrate the oncoming of war. Therefore, the crowds tended to be small.

However, the word spread that the new sovereign was young and beautiful. Therefore, the crowds grew as she continued her tour. Mostly, the crowds simply turned out to see the beautiful young woman. The Princess took advantage of the growing crowds to get them enthusiastic for her reign. After all, they were there to see her. A few words could make them glad she is in charge.

At various times, the Princess would smile, wave, and point at individuals in the crowd. She might even wink at an individual. The people on the other end of the gesture felt special, and would do almost anything for her. In this way, she felt that if she needed to recruit a large group of people, a similar tour would be all that it took.

The tour took her all over her realm. When she had visited most of the large population centers of the treaty land, she still wanted more. Thus, she decided to visit neighboring realms. This drove the security people crazy, but she was in charge.

She did not feel it was necessary to visit Lakeland or Calmondak because they were confirmed allies. Certainly, her father would be a close ally. She could count on him to come to her aid in any circumstance.

As for Lakeland, she at least had a verbal agreement. She believed that Lakeland would attempt some sort of underhanded scheme. Nevertheless, she could go to these other places and claim the allegiance of this large kingdoms for now. This would aid in negotiations with other states.

Instead of just a meet and greet tour, the visits to the other places had an additional goal. She wished to get some sort of written treaty with her close neighbors. If her kingdom was going to survive, the Princess needed to live in peace for a while. Thus, it would be key to get agreements with the people close by. She was not interested in expanding by force.

For the most part, the Princess was in a good situation. Since she was allies with the most powerful kingdoms, she would have a strong negotiation position with the smaller states. This worked to the Princess's advantage when negotiating the treaty. It also aided in acquiring tour locations in other realms.

While security would be tight, the visiting cities would increase security themselves to prevent an excuse for war from Calmondak or Lakeland. In fact, everyone was on their best behavior for the entourage.

The crowds at these cities were huge. Everyone wanted to see the gorgeous sovereign. The Princess easily won over the crowds in these cities. After the throngs came to see her, she was in an excellent position with the governmental authorities. She had the support of the people, so the government was in a poor position to deny her anything. Hence, she had signed treaties with the neighboring state before she moved on to the next one.

It went this way with all of the areas north and east of her kingdom. The governments did not wish to go against the throngs of people that came out to see the Princess. Therefore, the entire royal entourage was quite pleased with the results of the tour. It went beyond their greatest dreams. In fact, they wanted to visit even more states. However, it was simply not practical.

Nonetheless, they did find themselves attempting to arrange a few visits to the Pirate Peninsula. This was quite difficult to arrange. First, the peninsula was not like the other states. The current leader had only been there for a few years. Their system did not allow for a lifetime sovereign. Thus, they were always being torn one way or another for their policies.

In fact, the Princess wondered how they got anything done with the leaders needing to bend to the will of the people. This did not lead to leadership. She believed that someone would need to lead -- point the way. Having to pander to an unintelligent crowd would only lead to chaos. It seemed like a backwards way of doing things.

After all of the negotiations she only managed for one stop. She would hold a rally at the capitol city. Straying far into the peninsula would be just too difficult to arrange.

From their experience, the royal party expected immense crowds at this one stop. The government of the peninsula was not willing to put in place too much security. They warned against the trip because of the throngs of people that would would turn out to see the Princess. The officials felt that this visit would be too expensive to bring in the required security. Further, they would have liked to have more time to get things in place.

However, the unexpectedness aided in the Princess's security. No one would have much time to plan anything nefarious. Thus, she could greet the throngs and win them over. Once that was complete, she may have the masses on her side. Since the mob ruled the land, this would work in her favor.

In the other states, the leaders wanted their people on their side. They were often guarding against an uprising. However, it was not a requirement. There were plenty of oppressive regimes that kept their citizenry in line by force. Her father's rule was not like that.

The Princess believed that public opinion was key for this peninsula. If you were an unpopular leader there, you did not last long. The leadership obtained their right to govern from the masses. The government was run by the will of the people. Hence, if they wanted something, the leadership had better provide it. This could be the reason for the perceived wild nature of the peninsula.

After her wildly successful rally in the capitol city, the princess met with the leaders of the state. They had been as equally enthused about the reaction of the crowd as the Princess had been. Further, they were also excited about meeting the Princess in person. Perhaps the non-aggression treaty would be as simple as the rest. Sadly, this was not going to be the case.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William rode into the Capitol without knowing where they were holding his father. In fact, he did not even know where to begin looking. Who was holding him would have also been helpful. It was one of those things, which he should have discovered before he left. He should have gotten that information from the individual he spoke to on the communication device. It was a little late for that. Now he needed to begin looking. Where to start?

The Prince spent some time in the taverns and boarding houses. These locations were usually good places to find information about strangers. Particularly in a main governmental city there should be lots of people coming and going. However, the patrons were very wary of speaking to him. He could not get anything from people who were usually quite talkative. At least, they were from where he hailed.

The servers and patrons were very quiet. They were friendly, but they only went so far. They did not talk about anything more than the weather and the like. It seemed like something had changed in their world that made them frightened. It was as if they would be in trouble for discussing things with foreigners. Was this what it was like living in mob-rule? Was some sort of increase in trouble occurring?

The Prince became very frustrated with his lack of progress. He did something that he never thought he would ever do. He went to the local law enforcement office. Perhaps a missing person report would be the solution to his trouble. After all, this is the type of thing, which they would handle regularly. At least, the Prince thought they would. In any event, he had no where else to turn.

"I would like to report a missing person," stated the Prince to the man at the desk.

"You must be Prince William Thorbjornson of Lakeland," replied the sergeant.

"Why -- yes. Yes, I am. How would you know that?"

"We have been expecting you."

"Why...?"

"Your father stated that you would be coming."

"You have seen my father?"

"Naturally. Where did you think he was?"

"I did not know."

"You did not know what he was planning?"

"No. I did not even know he was here until I made a phone call."

"So, you have no knowledge of his attempting to procure raiders for an illegal operation?"

"What? Raiders?"

"Yes, he was arrested. He was caught in one of our major sting operations."

"He -- is -- under arrest?"

"That is correct."

"I was not expecting that."

"What? Did you expect him to be kidnapped by Pirates?"

"Actually..."

"That is a myth. We are taking great strides in this area. Hence, your father was a victim of our increased enforcement."

"That explains the tensions in the taverns..."

"What?"

"Nothing. May I see my father?"

"Certainly. Officer McHever here will show you the way. "

A buzzer sounded and the police officer opened a door. She pointed down a long corridor. Warily, the Prince walked down the hall. She indicated a door, which she unlocked and opened.

The room was stark. It had a reinforced glass window running down the center. Up against the window were a set of tables and chairs. At each chair, there was a communication device. Prince William got his choice of chairs. He sat down and waited. After a long while, a door on the other side of the glass wall opened. In walked his father, King Thorbjorn.

The king's hands were cuffed, and his legs were shackled together. He was not dressed in his usual clothing, but he wore orange coveralls. He shuffled up to the table across from his son. He took a chair and picked up the device on his side.

"Hello son," the King said humbly.

"What have you done?" asked the Prince sternly.

"It is just a big misunderstanding."

"You tried to hire raiders to attack Princess Angelina's new kingdom!"

"I just wished to test her defenses."

"You are incredible!"

"This can all be straightened out. I just need you to bail me out."

"I do not know if I want to."

"Son please..."

"Do not give me that! I have known the Princess a long time. In fact, I know her better than I know you. If you get out, you are just going to find some way to get at her."

"That's not fair!" replied the King.

"Oh it is not eh! She said you would be here."

"What?"

"We had a wager. I said you would be home making arrangements for the transfer of power. She said you would be here."

"She knew?"

"She is incredibly wise for fourteen. She knows you better than I do."

"This is all just a big mix-up. I promise I will behave."

"I wish I could believe you."

"If you will not do it for me, do it for the others."

"You got your entire entourage arrested?"

"They came to my defense like they should have."

"Assault, conspiracy, and who knows what else... Anyway, they told me that you have some money stashed locally -- where is it?"

"It is in a hotel safe -- well several hotels..."

"Which ones?"

"All of them."

"You have money in each safe in each hotel?"

"You cannot be too careful."

"They certainly are not going to trust me. How do I get them to open the safes?"

"That McHever woman will give you my access information."

"You mean Police Officer McHever?"

"Whatever!"

"I still do not know if I should do this."

"Please... We have been here for several days. We are not used to this kind of treatment."

"You are not. That is for certain!"

"I do not know how much longer we can hold out."

"Do not give me that!"

"It is just a misunderstanding. I will make it right."

"If you get out of here..."

"Right -- son. Please."

"I will see what I can do."

Prince William waved, and Officer McHever opened the door to let him out. Another guard escorted the King back to his cell. The Prince had found his father, but now what was he going to do?

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina sat in a large conference room in the main government building of the State Capitol. The people there treated her very well. They attended to her every want. However, the thing she wanted the most; they were reluctant to provide. She simply wanted a non-aggression treaty with them. This was the one thing that the leadership did not wish to provide. She was waiting on the one person who could submit the request to the proper people. It seemed to be quite a complicated process.

"Miss, I am Governor Campbell."

"I am Angelina..." began the Princess. "Angelina Dakota -- sovereign of the newly formed kingdom of..."

"I know who you are," interrupted Governor Campbell. "We can dispense with all of this formality and get down to business."

"My request is quite simple. I wish to establish relations with the officials of the Pirate Penninsula."

"Excuse me. We prefer the Sunshine State."

"I beg your pardon. In establishing this non-aggression pact, both parties will benefit greatly."

"That is not how we see it, and past history will fall on my side."

"How so?"

"In the past, any excuse seemed to be a good excuse to break any treaty we established with a kingdom."

"I would never..."

"The people of our state have a great deal of freedom. They are responsible for their own actions. Hence, if a -- pirate for the lack of a better term -- were to attack your kingdom, they would be completely culpable for their actions."

"That is fair."

"If you caught the individual, we would want full responsibility for the punishment of the perpetrator. After all, they are our citizens. However, if you are not satisfied with the action against the individual, how would your respond? Further, would you hold the entire state responsible for that single action -- whatever it is?"

"I see what you mean."

"In your world, you are responsible for the actions of your citizens. If someone disobeys your commands, it is punishable by death or any severe punishment you can consider. I -- and the rest of the government officials here -- do not wield such power. We have a system that takes into account many variables. We punish based upon our principles. Death is mostly not an option. Further, we have rules against cruel punishments."

"This is how you get a reputation as a haven for pirates and raiders."

"We are working on that reputation. Our freedoms are hard won. When the rest of Morica was falling into warring kingdoms, we remained free. Every person has a voice in the policies of our state. We take these freedoms quite seriously."

"How do the ignorant masses know enough to make the difficult state decisions?"

"We educate everyone. We have the most comprehensive school system anywhere. Further, we distribute vast amounts of information to each citizen over the internet. It helps them be informed about the decisions we make. When everyone was warring around us, it was quite difficult to maintain our system. There were obstructions and obstructionists who would look out for their sole interests and not the interests of everyone. Most of those issues have been ironed out."

"I do not see how this system would work. Is there not a constant power struggle between various factions?"

"Our system is built upon compromise. We attempt to keep everyone's interest in mind. Sometimes a group of people will get the short end, but we try to minimize the impact in those instances. Further, we attempt to spread those instances around."

"But," replied the Princess. "Each decision seems to take a very long time. Is there not anyone who can make quick decisions? What happens in a time of emergency?"

"As the executive, I have certain powers to make certain decisions. For instance, I can begin the process to establish a treaty with you. However, there is a long process to make it official."

"I just do not see how you can get anything done."

"At one time, all of Morica was like us. It became the most powerful country in the world."

"Then it all fell into chaos, so whose system is better?"

"Kingdoms will only prosper with the proper sovereign in place. The kingdom you are starting has risen and fell many times. It will continue to do so well after you are gone."

"Things will be different with me..."

"The problem is not you, but your successor. How can you make an unbiased choice that is beneficial to your people? You cannot. Kings and queens have always chosen their relatives for succession. These relatives are not always the most fit to rule. That is how our system is better. We handle succession better."

"You have had some poorly chosen leaders -- in my lifetime."

"While that is true, their limited power lessens the damage that they can do."

"...and this reputation as the Pirate Peninsula came from nowhere?"

"We have begun a systematic crackdown on the problem element. In fact, one of those kings you are so fond of was caught in one of our 'sting' operations."

"I know of whom you speak, and I would not say that I am particularly fond of King Thorbjorn. After all, it was I that he wanted to force out of power."

"We will not put up with that kind of activity any longer. The piracy and raiding businesses are almost all gone. Thus, you need not worry about that."

"I would still feel a great deal better with a treaty in writing, but I understand your crazy system better now."

"Governments go in cycles. Your kingdoms will breakdown, and it will lead to this crazy system as you call it."

"Be that as it may, I appreciate you attempting to alleviate the raids. If that is all I can count on, I guess it will have to do. Thank you for your time."

"You're welcome."

The Princess left the Capitol building without her treaty, but she was hopeful that there would be no trouble coming from this place. She was confident that would be true as long as Governor Campbell was in charge. Someone else might not work out as well. She was going to have to watch this place closely.

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"I am sorry Mr. -- uh -- Mr. Lakeland -- but we cannot allow you to leave," explained a clerk.

"I am King Thorbjorn of Lakeland!" replied the King in a rage. "You will respect me!"

"I beg your pardon -- er -- sire."

"That is a little better," responded the King with a little less ire. "Now I have paid my ransom, I wish to leave."

"Um ... sire. It was bail."

"Whatever, it has been paid!"

"However, there is a large crowd outside."

"What are you talking about?"

"The people of this state have found out about your arrest. They have been protesting outside for weeks, and the crowds continue to grow."

"How did this sort of information leak out?"

"Well -- um -- well -- we have freedom of the press."

"Which means?"

"It is just that -- our press is free to report what it wishes. Your attempt to hire raiders has been well reported in the news outlets."

"And I have to pay the price for this free press..."

"I guess in this instance -- yes."

"I am leaving!"

"Sire," interrupted one of the King's aides. "I am afraid he is right. We should not leave the safety of this building."

The King turned and glared at the member of his entourage. In an attempt to stifle his anger he asked, "You want to stay here?"

"No sire," replied the aide with a bow. "We should call for a full entourage to escort you out of here -- to be safe."

"That could take weeks!" exclaimed the King.

"It is best to be safe," added the aide.

"You expect me to willingly stay here for a few more weeks?" asked the King.

"Sire, it is the safest call," replied the aide.

"He is right," added the clerk.

"Ugh!" was all the King said as he walked away.

The King returned to his cell. He wished he had not dismissed his son William so quickly after paying the bail. He could now use the council of a member of his family. He had no one here that could understand his position.

His entourage came in to provide advice, but he ordered them to leave him alone. He wanted to think about his situation. He sat on his bunk quietly and attempted to think logically. He was not sure what to do, so he just sat and listened for a while. As he sat quietly, he heard the crowd outside the jail. He could not quite make out what they were saying, but he imagined he heard them call his name.

The King was getting stir crazy in his cell. He really wanted to get out of the jail.. He really wanted to see the sky again. In fact, there were lots of things he would like to do again. His people wanted him to sit and wait. Could he do that?

He has faced angry crowds in the past. After all, he was a king. Facing angry crowds was a part of every king's experience. Further, he was a king of one of the most powerful kingdoms in Morica. What kind of example was he setting for his people? What kind of king shrinks from a little danger? In his youth, King Thorbjorn would not have avoided such a fight.

The only problem was that he would have to face the mob unarmed. The officials made it quite clear that he would not be allowed to have his weapons within the states boundaries. They would make arrangements to have a courier bring his implements to his castle -- at his expense. However, the government would not knowingly arm the King within its boarders.

King Thorbjorn wondered why he ever came to such a barbaric land. They did not treat him with the respect he had earned as the sovereign of Lakeland. Since his arrest, they gave him a cell like all the others. He afforded no special treatment. He was thrown in with the common people and common crooks.

Furthermore, his advisors were asking him to spend more time in this land. They wanted him to stay put for his own safety. He did not know if he could wait any longer. He believed he had spent enough time in this place. He wanted out, and he wanted out now.

After sitting quietly for several minutes, the King began to pace in his cell.

Who do these people think they are dealing with? the King thought to himself. I am King Thorbjorn of Lakeland!

The King began to pace more rigorously. He looked and felt like a caged lion.

I do not wish to spend any more time in this -- prison, the King continued with his thoughts. I have rights -- even in this place! I should not be forced to stay here against my will!

The King was resolute and gathered his people.

"I am King Thorbjorn of Lakeland," he addressed his people. "Lakeland is a strong and powerful nation. We grew to prominence by our actions. We did not became such a powerful kingdom by playing it safe. When we wanted something, we went out and grabbed it. Further, my family and I would not allow a small group of peasants stand in our way. We would not let others restrict our freedom. We would not let others keep us from what we desired."

His small entourage nodded in agreement.

"Thus, prepare yourselves. We are leaving this place now. I will not spend another night in this god forsaken place. I cannot sit here and be rescued by some group from Lakeland. Whatever we face, I am confident we can prevail. After all, we have each other, and we have faced tougher foes than these people. The odds may be against us, but we will not allow these people to stand in our way of freedom. No one -- no one -- in my family has shrunk from a little danger, and I am not about to start."

The King's people cheered. They readied themselves to leave. They all gathered at the exit gate.

"Let my people go!" roared the King.

"Um -- er -- uh," stammered the clerk. "Was I not clear? You cannot leave."

"I will not let a little danger stand in my way of freedom!"

"Yes -- but..."

"Why are you sitting there! Open this gate!"

"I am sorry -- sir --er -- sire, but I cannot do that."

"And why not?"

"I -- uh -- I do not have authorization."

"Your authorization be damned!"

"Also, we are keeping you here -- not for your safety -- but for theirs..."

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Reunited...

Chapter Thirty-Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William left the prison, where they held his father, and noticed the protesters outside. They carried signs and shouted slogans. The Prince noted that they were against the violence inherent in kingdoms. They shouted against the tyranny that his father represented. They also were displeased with how the area kingdoms used their citizens for mercenaries.

The Prince wanted to disagree with them, but he believed they had a point. His father was attempting to hire citizens of the Pirate Peninsula to raid another kingdom. This type of thing was common for his father, and he thought that other kings could easily behave in a similar manner. Thus, he felt for the protesters. They had a reason to be upset at his father.

Soon after that, it hit him. He had just posted his father's bail. His father would have to face this crowd. That could turn ugly. In fact, the citizens were so upset that this crowd could turn into a mob. Further, the slightest incident could result in a riot. Therefore, it was likely that the authorities would not release his father immediately.

Hence, the Prince wanted to do something. Perhaps he could calm the crowd. However, he was a part of the problem. He was a member of a royal house. To a degree, they were not only protesting his father, but protesting him and his way of life. The only way of life he knew.

The Prince did not know if he could survive without the royal support. While he had experienced some hard times, he never really had to work. His experiences were for sport and recreation and not for living. For instance, he never killed an animal for survival. He did it just for sport. He supposed that the support he got was the point of the protesters. There were plenty of citizens of Lakeland, and other kingdoms, who had to work hard for everything they had, and they still did not have much.

His life of privilege allowed him to travel for numerous days without worry. He never worked. Everything he needed was provided for him. Although, that could all change. He was a very minor member of the royal family. Because he was a son of the reigning king, the court protected him. However, if anything happened to King Thorbjorn all that could change.

If a civil war broke out in Lakeland, that could spell trouble for his family. Moreover, it could make life difficult for him. While the King had named his successor, there were no guarantees that the King's wishes would be honored. Furthermore, the new king may not wish to have any rivals to the throne. He could call for the head of the minor heirs. That could only mean one thing -- war. It also meant death to many.

Further, there were people in the crowd here who wished the King harm. Now, there were also people in Lakeland who wanted to see King Thorbjorn dead, but they were not of an immediate concern. These protesters could end the Prince's life of privilege quickly. He just hoped they would never storm the jail. He was hoping for law and order in what he believed was a lawless state.

The possibilities of the situation swirled in the Prince's head. The thoughts of life after King Thorbjorn overwhelmed him. He became dizzy, and he had to sit. A friendly face noticed him and asked if he was all right. He smiled meekly and claimed it was just the heat. She gave him some water and left. The Prince smiled and took the water graciously. If she knew who he was, would she treat him the same the Prince wondered.

What was he going to do? His way of life balanced upon the return of the King to Lakeland. There were many dangers between where the King was and the relatively safe confines of Lakeland Castle. Further, if the citizens of the peninsula knew the King was here, so did all of the other kingdoms. His enemies were certainly plotting against the King at this very moment. How was the King going to get home?

While an entourage was likely departing, it would be weeks before it got here. This made Lakeland vulnerable. The leader of the land was away. Thus, a powerful nearby kingdom could take advantage of the situation. The decisive king was not in charge. How would the Lakeland military handle a sudden attack? Who would give the commands to the military?

The more the Prince thought about the situation, the more upset he became. His mind raced with all of the possibilities. He thought that perhaps one of his prominent brothers or half-brothers could sabotage the entourage as a power grab. Thus, when the showed up, they could assassinate the King and blame it on someone else. There were many possible outcomes of the situation. However, the Prince could think of few that would be beneficial to him. They seemed to all end poorly.

A few short weeks ago, he dreamt of having his own kingdom. Now, that seemed like a distant dream -- an impossible dream. It now seemed that his entire world came crashing down upon him. He attempted to get up, but he felt weaker than ever. Did the woman know who he was? Did she drug him?

A wave of paranoia overcame him. He suspected everyone. A few moments ago, he had sympathized with the crowd. Now he thought they were all against him. They were the ones stirring up the chaos in his life. Thus everyone was suspect. They became agents for his father's enemies. They were now his enemies and he had to get out of there. However, he could not even stand up.

I must get up, he told himself. Everything depends upon it.

He gathered his strength and managed to get to his feet.

"Are you sure you are all right?" asked the woman with the friendly face.

"What did you do to me?" he asked in an angry voice.

"What?" she asked with a puzzled look upon her face.

"Just leave me alone!" the Prince barked as he wobbled away.

The Prince found a tree and leaned against it. It was an odd tree. It was nothing like the hardwood trees the Prince was accustomed to in Lakeland. He felt that everything was odd about this place. Everything there seemed "wrong" to him. Everything about the place was strange and different. It was not like the places he frequented.

He decided that he needed to get out of there. However, he could not leave his father behind. He had to do something. For the first time in his life, he would have to do something heroic. Otherwise, the life he knew would be over.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Upon leaving the Capitol building, Princess Angelina explored the area. After some wandering, she came upon a large group of people waving signs and chanting slogans. She walked up to one of the protesters.

"What is going on?" she asked.

"Princess Angelina!" the protester responded.

"Yes," replied the Princess with a slight bow. "Would you tell me what is happening here?"

"I really cannot believe it is really you."

"It is. Thanks. So...?"

"I cannot believe that Princess Angelina is speaking to me."

"Yes I am. Now about my question..."

"I am so envious of your position. I mean, to be a princess with all the pageantry and elegance, it would be just so, so, so much like a fairy tale."

"You are very kind, so what is happening here?"

"I have always dreamed of being a princess -- living in a castle -- riding around in majestic carriages."

"Thank you very much," the Princess stated as she began to walk away.

"Oh!" the protester stated with some urgency. "We are protesting tyranny."

"You are experiencing tyranny here?"

"Oh no! We are quite free. However, some king attempted to hire some of our citizens to raid another kingdom. Such is the way of kingdoms."

"But you said -- never mind -- go on."

"This dreadful king is in the jail there for his crimes. We want him to be aware that we will no longer put up with his type of shenanigans here."

"The stuff kingdoms do..."

"Right! We support democracy. The right to have a say in the government is important to us. That is why we are protesting."

"I thank you very much for your time."

"Wait! Could you sign my sign?"

"Sure," stated the Princess as she wrote her name on the citizen's protest sign.

The Princess spoke to others, and they confirmed what the first protester told her. They were protesting her way of life. Further, some were quite angry about the situation. In fact, many were more upset about it than she was. Which she found remarkable because King Thorbjorn was going to attack her. The Princess had every right to be irate. However, the involvement of their citizenry greatly angered the crowd.

She wandered through the crowd some more and shook hands with a few protesters. Everyone she meet was happy to see her. They seemed quite friendly and welcomed her warmly. She did not encounter anyone who could see the disconnect from the life of a princess and the kingdom system they were protesting.

In fact, the Princess's life was nothing like a fairy tale princess. The people in this crowd had choices. They could choose whom they would marry. They could choose what job they would have. They had freedoms of which the Princess could only dream. However, having her own kingdom was a step in the right direction for her.

Her thoughts drifted to Prince William. After all, he had always been friendly toward her. Even when they were kids, they got along well. She had strong feelings for him, but she could never marry him. The conflicts would be too great. She wanted to be in charge, but he was the man. Thus, Prince William would have to be in charge or have his position challenged regularly. She did not want him to be thought of as a weakling. Thus, a marriage to him was not something the Princess would or could allow.

There were many other thoughts that ran through her head. Up to this point, she did not have many choices in her life. In fact, she could have been married to the man that these people were protesting. Moreover, her running away as she did resulted in him being in prison -- eventually. None of this would have happened if they had been married. The Princess thought that that decision was the first she had made in her life.

The Princess was considering her life when she stumbled into a man.

"Oh! Excuse me," she said not even looking at the man.

"Princess?"

"Yes," she replied in an almost exasperated voice. "I am Princess Angelina."

"I know silly!"

"Ha! Prince William! What are you doing here?"

"My father is in prison there."

"Oh yeah, I know."

"You seem a little preoccupied. Is something wrong?"

"No, nothing. This crowd has just got me thinking about things."

"I know how you feel."

"It is weird how that kind of thing can happen."

"I know that!"

"You do not realize how each moment could open a new door into your life. If you go one way, things would be totally different."

"It is like we are always standing at a crossroads," replied the Prince. "Our future happiness depends upon taking the right road."

"But, how do we choose?"

"My father chose poorly."

"That is why he is in jail, but there is a chance it will still work out for the best."

"Let us hope so. A lot rides on him getting back to Lakeland safely."

"I suppose for you it does."

"Not just me! My father, ruling in the manner that he does, has many benefits for many people."

"I suppose..."

"No! He controls the people. Most of the kingdom lives in relative peace. If you remove him, there will be chaos."

"However, those very same people do not have much in the way of freedom."

"What is more important -- peace or freedom?"

"Why not both?"

"No! Think about it! The people here live in total chaos. They are in a constant state of battle. To make even the simplest decision of state, they have to argue and fight to come to a conclusion."

"But..."

"No buts!" interrupted the Prince. "They need leadership. They need someone to lead them out of the chaos."

"A strong elected leader can do that."

"Can he?"

"He or she!" insisted the Princess.

"Is that what this is about?"

"I guess it is!"

"You do not know how good you have it."

"That may be true, but why must it be the way it is? Could it not be better with more freedom?"

"Freedom for you!"

"That would be a start."

"Are you sure you are fourteen?"

"I just turned fifteen!"

"I missed your birthday...."

"Do not worry about it."

"Oh! Speaking of which, you need to get out of here!"

"What? Why?"

"Have you not noticed? This place is a powder keg. It could go off at any moment."

"What are you planning?"

"Nothing! But you should really leave."

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

King Thorbjorn sat in his cell. He had not wanted to spend any more time in the jail, but the officials would not let him leave. His son posted his bail, but there was danger outside. The city officials did not want an all out riot. Hence, the King had to stay in his jail cell.

He was sleeping uneasily when someone entered his cell. He awoke with a start.

"Who is it? Who is there?" the King asked.

"I just came in to let you go," the stranger stated.

"What?"

"The crowd has dispersed for the evening, and if you would like to leave..."

"If? I will gather my men and go!"

"We cannot let you all go at once. We will need to release you and your entourage one at time."

"What? Why?"

"We do not wish to raise suspicion. Letting you go all at once would be very noticeable."

"You are probably right about that."

"We will let you go, and then a few minutes later another member of your group...."

"I would rather go second or third."

"There is no time to argue! Are you going or not?"

"I am going! I am going!"

The King exited the jail warily. He felt something was wrong, but he had desperately wanted to leave his cell. Thus, he carefully walked out into the darkness. Every moving shadow made him jump. He saw his enemies behind every tree and bush.

However, he knew he had to find a place to meet with his entourage as they left the jail. Therefore, he had to stay close to the exit. At the very least, he needed to be able to see the door. He needed to find some place he could watch his group exit.

He slowly and carefully searched for a spot to sit. He snuck from tree to tree and bush to bush until he found a spot he liked. It had a good view of the door and it held plenty of cover. The King sat and began watching to door.

He watched for a number of minutes. However, his eyes were getting heavy. After all, it was in the middle of the night. He had not slept well for days. Thus, watching the door became a great chore. He kept nodding off, and yet no one else came out. Eventually, he fell asleep.

The King awoke with a start. A crowd had started to gather in the predawn hours. He wondered where his entourage had gone. Certainly, they would have looked around for him. While his spot concealed him well, his group should have found him. Nonetheless, they should be around somewhere.

He thought about staying in his hiding spot. It concealed him well. However, the idea of spending the entire day there did not appeal to him. He guessed that the protesters would not recognize him, so he could at least blend in with them.

He went into the group that was milling around. They offered him some coffee, which the King welcomed. No one paid any special attention to him. He was just another protester in their eyes. Thus, he milled around as well, looking for hidden members of his party. He found none. His anxiousness to leave made him a susceptible to the trap he walked into.

Without his guard, the King was vulnerable to any of his many enemies. Further, he was unarmed. The government had confiscated his weapons. Therefore, he was unarmed and unprotected. Any of his enemies could walk up to him and kill him. That is, except for the crowd. He felt somewhat safe in the gathering crowd. Not to mention, it was a good hiding place.

The King had people camouflage. He was just another face in the crowd. Further, who would look for him in a group protesting him? In addition, he thought he would be able to spot people who did not belong with the protesting group. If someone were looking in the bushes around the courthouse, they would be people to watch. Hence, the King could avoid them.

Nonetheless, he was in a difficult spot. Chances are that someone was watching the roads. A solitary man wandering around would bring unwanted attention to him. That would bring certain death. Thus, he would have to stick with the crowd for now. At the very least, he would have to wait for the government to release his group. However, when would that happen? It could be weeks. He did not believe that he could not hold out that long.

Further, he had no money or food. Could he survive on free coffee? Perhaps he would also get a sandwich or some other kind of food. All of this depended upon the gathering crowd -- furthering his instinct to stick with them. Nonetheless, he knew he was in deep trouble. If only he was not in such a hurry to exit the jail.

Day had broken and there was a large crowd gathered. They chanted slogans, and the King joined them. He was just another anti-monarchy protester. He even carried a sign protesting tyranny. He blended in with the crowd well. He even got some food for his efforts. His plan was working.

Further, he did not see anyone suspicious poking around the grounds. Thus, he concluded that they were waiting for him along the road. He was safe as long as he blended in with the crowd.

The day wore on, and he kept up his facade. He became hoarse from all of the shouting that he did. He bonded with a group that had been there since the predawn hours. They took good care of him. He ate well. The group accepted him as one of their number. Furthermore, they stayed in the middle of the pack. Thus, he did not have to sit on the fringes.

The King felt confident that his plan worked. He was thinking that he would make it until nightfall. That would present new challenges but nothing insurmountable. For the first time in a long time, he felt slightly at ease. It was the first plan to have worked in quite a while.

The evening was drawing close, and the protesters began to thin out. He may have let his guard down as someone walked up to him and whispered in his ear. Further, the voiced called the King sire. He had been found out. Now there was trouble.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"Sire," Prince William whispered into King Thorbjorn's ear. "I am glad I found you."

The King responded violently to the Prince's actions. The Prince quickly defended himself from the swinging fists of the King. The crowd sided with the King, and began closing in on the fighting pair. The Prince took a couple of shots from people in the crowd.

"Hey! It is me!" shouted the Prince. "Your son -- William!"

The King realized that it was indeed his son, and stopped his punches. It took a few moments, but the crowd also halted their assault.

"Thank you for coming to my aid," stated the King to the people of the crowd.

"What are you doing out?" the Prince asked the King quietly.

"That is a long story," replied the King. "Let us go somewhere quiet to discuss it."

"I have a room," responded the Prince. "We can go there."

"I would like that."

The Prince led King Thorbjorn to his hotel room. Few words passed during the journey from the jail to the room. The two men simply walked quietly. When they arrived at the room, the King explained how he ended up in the crowd of protesters. When his story was over, the Prince explained how he ended up there.

"A news report stated that you had escaped," began the Prince. "I knew you would not have gone far, so I was looking for you around the jail."

"Escaped? They let me go!"

"Did you fill out any paperwork? Did you get your belongings?"

"Well -- no."

"Then you were not officially released."

"You mean..."

"Someone let you out for some purpose -- perhaps nefarious."

"My guess is someone wants me to see me in trouble. There are plenty of people from some rival kingdoms that would love to see me dead."

"Or one of your own family members..."

"Would one of my own kids want the -- I guess you are right."

"I am just glad I found you before it was too late."

"So, what do we do now?"

"We need to get you to Lakeland."

"That is going to take some doing."

"That it will, but first, let us get something to eat."

The Prince made arrangements for some food to be brought to the room. It was an interesting choice by the Prince. The King had never tasted anything like it. The Prince had made a point to try the local cuisine, and he particularly liked this food.

"They call it pizza," noted the Prince.

"It is very unusual," replied the King.

"I am surprised it has never made it to Lakeland. It is very common and popular here."

"I will note it, and bring it there. It is very tasty."

"Let us hope you are able," answered the Prince.

The Prince and King continued their conversation over the meal. They did not discuss their plans; they just spoke of little things -- unimportant matters. However, as the meal neared the end, the conversation began to drift to matters that were more serious. They had to decide what they would do to get the king home.

"Certainly someone is watching the roads," stated the King.

"They cannot watch all of the roads," replied the Prince.

"However, we do not know which ones are being watched."

"That is true, but they might not expect two people."

"There is no reason to think that they would not consider you. In fact, they may be looking for us as a pair."

"I find that highly unlikely. Why would they?"

"I do not know. I am just playing devil's advocate."

"So what do you think?" asked the Prince.

"I think you are right. We should travel by the main road. They would not expect it, and they would not expect both of us."

Prince William and King Thorbjorn discussed their plans into the evening. They wanted to be ready for anything that they might face. Thus, they discussed what they would do in various scenarios.

While they would have liked to get an early start, they felt it better to wait. Hence, after the late evening, they left in the middle of the morning. The Prince's suncar was ready for the trip. They were quite glad that they would not have to walk to Lakeland. The car would afford them a little bit of protection.

The road out of town that they took skirted the jail. Like previous days, there was a large crowd. As they drove by, the Prince and King scanned the crowd for signs of trouble, but found none. At least, they did not notice anyone out of place.

The pair planned to go through Princess Angelina's Kingdom. While they did not think they could rely on her giving them aid, they thought they could depend on her for not hindering the journey. At the very least, the Prince was on good terms with her.

It was a bright sunny day. Therefore, the beginning of the journey went smoothly. The suncar had plenty energy to travel most of the day. However, because they did not start at first light, they would not make it to the Princess's kingdom before nightfall. Thus, they would have to camp somewhere. This is where the most danger lurked.

There were plenty of people watching the road; however, there was no way to tell who might pose a threat. Thus, the King mostly slouched down as the Prince drove. If anyone was suspicious or noted the Prince, they would likely make their presents known at the camp. If there was going to be any trouble, it would occur either during the night or before they left in the morning.

Thus, they conserved some suncar battery just in case they wanted to move during the night. This also prevented them from getting to the Princess's kingdom. They found a good defensible spot to camp. The Prince and King took turns keeping watch. They hoped that anyone coming after them would need lights. Thus, they would be able to see them.

It was very late when the Prince saw a large retinue of lights heading their way. He woke the King and prepared for the worst.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina spent some extra time wandering around the Pirate Peninsula before heading back to her kingdom. She took her appeal to the people of the region. While the government was reluctant to sign a non-aggression pact, she attempted to get the people on her side. For the most part, that worked.

The crowds that turned out to see her were warm and welcoming. She could not understand how they could simultaneously protest kingdoms and praise her. However, she was getting used to the conflicting ideas that were present in the area. In any case, the crowds seem to love her. That was really the most important thing to her. As long as the people were on her side, she would be safe from aggression from this state.

When she was satisfied that she had nothing to fear from her neighbors, she headed home. It had not been a long trip, but she still had things she wished to finish. After all, her kingdom still did not have a name. She had very little in the form of a governing body. In fact, she had no ministers. She was taking care of everything herself. She needed to get these things organized. She could not do that from the road. Thus, she had reasons to return home.

Nonetheless, the retinue moved slowly. The people, with whom she met, showered her with gifts. Thus, she was returning with a great many gifts. This slowed her progress down considerably. It took a lot to haul all of the many fine things she collected on that trip.

While they had quite a load, they did not wish to stop moving. The entrouage wished to continue moving no matter the condition. This was not only a safety precaution, it was also a desire to finish what had been started. Hence, they wished to travel during the day and during the night.

During the day, the suncars pulled a heavy load. There was no charging them up. Thus, as it got dark, the suncars slowed to a stop. They would eat their evening meal as they switch systems. During the night, the animals towed the load. Thus, while they were going slow, they could travel both day and night. It would take a few days to get back to the kingdom, but they were always on the move.

They happened upon a campsite along the main road. However, when they got there it was deserted. There was only a single suncar, but the fire was still smoldering. Thus, the occupants of the camp could not be far. However, the Princess ordered the caravan to continue. The campers were around, but they appeared not to want company. The Princess would oblige them.

After she had passed the camp, one of her guards climbed aboard her wagon. She was not asleep, but reading a book. She looked at him in anticipation.

"Princess," he began. "There are some strangers who would like an audience."

"An audience -- out here?" replied the Princess.

"Yes mistress!"

The Princess glared at the guard for his use of that honorific and replied, "Show them to me."

The guard bowed and left. A short time later, he brought two men to her trailer. The Princess smiled and offered them a seat.

"Thank you for seeing us," began Prince William.

"Do not mention it," replied the Princess with grace.

"Thank you," mumbled King Thorbjorn.

"What do you want?" asked the Princess in a harsh tone as she glared at the King.

"We need..." groveled the King.

"Please," interrupted Prince William waving off the King. "We are looking to get back to Lakeland. We fear for our lives, and we hoped you would provide sanctuary."

"You mean you fear for his life," corrected the Princess.

"Yes," replied the King.

"Please Angelina -- er -- your highness," added Prince William. "We would not ask if it were not in such dire straights."

"Those dire straights do not have anything to do with what happened in the peninsula -- would it?" asked the Princess.

"Why -- I ," began King Thorbjorn.

"Yes," interupted Prince William. "In fact, the trouble we are in was a direct result of the King's stupidity."

"Which was an attempt to undermine my kingdom."

"Yes! That is right," replied the Prince preventing the King from saying anything. "Now we are asking for your help."

"Okay, I am willing to forgive, but what is in it for me?" responded the Princess.

"How is that..." began the King in an irritated voice.

"What are you asking?" the Prince asked interrupting his father.

"First off, I want guarantees against any undermining my rule," insisted the Princess.

"Done!" replied the Prince before his father could say anything.

"Also," added the Princess. "I want some more land concessions.'

"What!?!!" responded the King.

"You are asking quite a bit there," added the Prince. "We are just looking for help to get us back to Lakeland."

"That is still asking a lot from me. After all, I know that the King is a fugative." replied the Princess.

"While that may be true ... our situation is not dire enough to warrant a land deal," explained the Prince.

"What does your situation warrant?" asked the Princess.

"We can offer advisors. We can offer cash," replied the Prince.

"Let's go!" insisted the King.

"I could never trust any advisor from you, and what could I use with more cash?" answered the Princess.

"I think we are at an impasse," insisted the King.

"What do you want -- besides land," asked Prince William.

"Technology," replied the Princess.

"Technology? What kind?" asked the Prince.

"The stuff you keep from your people. There are all kinds of things that I have discovered that could be useful to me," the Princess answered.

"Like what?" asked the King.

"Very good!" replied the Princess with a wry smile. "Guard! Get them out of here!"

Before the King and Prince could react, they found themselves on the road as the caravan made its way out of sight.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

"I told you that we would not be able to count on her," King Thorbjorn told Prince William.

"We do not really need to," replied the Prince. "We just need to follow her. That should provide enough security for our purposes."

"I suppose," grumbled the King.

"Now let us get the suncar and go," said the Prince as he ran to the waiting vehicle.

The King followed the Prince to the suncar. They had been conserving the suncar's power during the day for just such an occurrence. They had been saving power just in cast they needed to leave in the middle of the night. They were saving for an emergency, but it was not in this case. They just needed to get going.

Further, they would not have to hurry. This was because the Princess's caravan was moving very slowly. Thus, they could use minimal suncar power. Therefore, they did not have to press the batteries of the vehicle.

About an hour after dawn, the entire caravan came to a stop. They did this to switch from animal power to solar power. They would bed down the animals in the wagons and hook up their suncars. The process took a little while, so it was also time for the morning meal.

King Thorbjorn and Prince William took the time to eat as well. This also allowed the suncar's batteries to charge. They would soon reach the Princess's kingdom. After that, the King and his son would simply need to leave the caravan and head toward Lakeland. The pair continued following the caravan into the Princess's kingdom.

After a fair amount of travel, the King and the Prince would break off from the caravan. There was a fork in the road, and the Princess would likely head to her new castle complex. The two stragglers would split from the caravan at this time. Nonetheless, they would be well within the borders of the former treaty land. It would be in somewhat friendly territory.

As they were about to depart ways with the Princess they sought an audience with her. However, she did not allow it. Thus, they had to leave her without saying their good-byes. This was just as well for the King, but Prince William would have liked to say farewell. As always, he did not know when he would see her again.

Even without the audience, they continued to stay with the caravan. The sun was beginning to set before they reached the split towards Lakeland. They thought they may spend a little more time with the caravan. Fortunately, the slow pace allowed the royal suncar to once again save power. The King and the Prince would be able to travel for a while as it got dark. Further, if they ran into trouble during the night, they would be able to make a getaway.

Since it was getting dark, the caravan once again made its switch. A meal was eaten, and the animals were once again pulling the Princess's wagons. It was at this point that the King noticed the road heading towards the north. It was here that the King and his son would leave the relative safety of the caravan.

With darkness coming on, they would not be able to travel far. Hence, they simply looked for an out of the way place to camp in that area. With darkness falling, they did not want to waste power looking for a well protected camping area. Thus, they found a spot byt the crossroads and pulled off. While there was a multiple ways that trouble could come after them, they also had multiple options for escape.

Prince William took the first watch. It was dark. It was hard for him to believe that this was once a busy intersection. However, the nearby ruins indicated that this place was busy both day and night. The lights and buildings were long destroyed during the ancient conflict. Now, it was quite dark and very quiet. The Prince marveled at all of the stars.

Despite the conditions, Prince William remained awake during his watch. However, King Thorbjorn did not do so well. He awoke with a start as the sun struck his face. It was well past dawn. He looked around in panic, but there was no one around. The roads were deserted in every direction. He let out a sigh, and began preparing the morning meal.

It was later in the morning than they would have liked, but they were happy to be heading towards Lakeland. Even with the late start, they would be close to Lakeland at then end of the day's travel. In fact, the father and son should be able to make their home kingdom early on the next morning.

Furthermore, the roads were quiet. It did not appear that anyone was watching the road they were traveling. It was quiet and empty. This did not make the men anxious because this was fairly normal for this part of Morica. Hence, they pushed forward.

In fact, they went so fast that they did not save any batteries for reserve. As night fell and they neared Lakeland, the suncar stopped. They were simply excited to get home, and they were caught off guard by the stopping vehicle. They stopped completely unprepared for making camp.

Nonetheless, they did not panic. The two simply made camp next to the road where they stopped. They could almost feel how close to Lakeland they were. They both felt that they would make it home. It was the last leg of an arduous journey and they were almost there. All they had to do was make it through one more night.

This time, King Thorbjorn took the first watch. At this spot, it was also dark and quiet. However, the excitement of making it to Lakeland kept the King awake. He was vigilant and even paced for a while. He kept a good watch. As with all of the other nights, he did not see or hear anything other than the sleeping Prince.

When morning came, the King had not slept much during the Prince's watch. King Thorbjorn had a lot on his mind. The excitement of making it to Lakeland after all he had went through prevented any sleep. He could not believe he was so close. He simply tossed and turned during Prince William's watch. He was anxious to get home.

With the sun up and the morning meal taken, the suncar made its way towards Lakeland. They reached the boarder after a short drive. They had reached Lakeland without incident. After a brief cheer in the car, they spotted a small dust cloud heading their way. They thought it was the entourage sent to retrieve the King from the Pirate Peninsula.

Relief that they had finally reached their home kingdom became evident in the suncar. They both thought they were going to be safe. They were wrong. The road exploded in front of them and they crashed into the ditch.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William awoke behind the wheel of the suncar. He shook his head to clear away the stars. He looked around, and spotted a group of people on a nearby hill. Still groggy, he wondered who they were.

Before he could determine who they were, he saw a flash. Instinctively, he jumped out of the car. He stumbled away as best he could. The explosion knocked him further away. He collapsed and lost consciousness.

He awoke surrounded by a small army. He did not know how long he had been out. He was not even sure where he was. Slowly it all came back to him.

Was the King dead? he wondered.

He stayed there on his back trying to clear his head. He still was unclear as to what had happened. It started to come back to him as he looked at the faces of the men that surrounded him. They all seemed somewhat familiar. However, his head was not quite clear enough to know who they were. After looking for a bit, one face stood out.

"Bjorn?" Prince William asked.

"It is I dear brother," replied Bjorn.

"What -- in the name of all things sacred -- is going on?"

"Father is dead," Bjorn replied with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

"What?"

"King Thorbjorn is dead -- long live King Bjorn!" he replied raising his hand triumphantly as his army cheered.

"You killed father?" asked Prince William.

"Well not me directly. I am not an expert with the rocket propelled grenade."

"And, you are claiming the throne."

"Of course! I am the king's eldest. I am the most likely heir to the throne."

"Well -- uh -- I guess congratulations are in order -- your highness."

"Thank you!"

"Very well then, what are you going to do with me?"

"What? I have not given it much thought."

"So...can I go then?"

"Where are you going to go?"

"I was just bringing the King -- well..." muttered Prince William. "Anyway, now that my job with the King is finished, I have business with Princess Angelina."

"You have always had a thing for her."

"That is true, but I should be going."

"She is quite a lovely young thing; however, we are headed back towards the castle."

"I can find my own way."

"You would have to."

"So, I can still go then?"

"Yes you may. It is just too bad that your transport is currently non-functional."

"That is fine -- my Lord."

"Wait! You are not going to cause trouble for me are you?"

"I am so far down the line in succession. What could I do?"

"I do not know...."

"You have more to fear from the older boys than you do from me."

"Do I have your word on that?"

"I guarantee it," Prince William stated while remembering the sibling rivalries.

"Regardless," responded the new King. "You are far from -- well everywhere. You will be fortunate to survive the day out here by yourself."

"It is quite dangerous out here."

"You may go."

The Prince walked away from his brother's army. He gave a tentative wave at his brother. He decided to bow deeply at the waist before he turned and walked away. The new king gave a gracious wave of his hand as he turned.

Prince William was still a bit unclear about what had happened. Naturally, he knew that his brother had ambushed them, but how did he know which road the King and Prince would take? He had been very watchful during his watch. He would have noticed any scouts. Had the King missed something?

He began to go over the possibilities. He did not think that anyone had bugged his suncar. However, it could have been. He recalled how Princess Angelina's father had installed tracking devices on his kingdom's vehicles. However, who would have the foresight to keep track of him? Certainly, no one could keep that a secret from the King. No, he concluded that his vehicle was clean. It must have been something else.

He continued to walk and ponder the question. He went over the previous events of the recent past. He could not have missed anyone in the dark of night. How could Prince Bjorn know when and where the suncar was headed. It weighed heavily upon his mind. He walked for quite a while before he stumbled and fell. It was not until that moment did he realize how unsteady he was.

With all that had happened to him in the past several months, he was getting used to feeling a bit off. He remembered that he was just in a car accident. The crash knocked him about pretty good. In fact, he was lucky to be alive. He could see his brother's caravan way off to the north. He was happy that Bjorn did not find him a threat. Otherwise, Bjorn would have killed him on the spot. Although he was walking away, he was not out of trouble yet. Bjorn could turn and eliminate him at any moment. If the rolls were reversed, he is not sure he would not have killed his brother. He was a rival no matter how remote.

As the day wore on, Prince William became more confident that he was safe from Bjorn. However, he became less confident that he would still survive. He had to stop and rest on regular intervals. His thirst was getting great. His only supply of water was destroyed in the suncar.

However, Prince William remembered a bridge they had crossed earlier in the day. He just had to make it to that river. If he could make it, that river would provide the Prince with drinking water at the very least. Moreover, he was planning to use the river as transportation.

The Prince remembered reading a story about a young man rafting down a river. He remembered the great adventure this young man had on the river. If some school-aged kid could raft down a river, so could the Prince. That is, if he could make it to the river.

He walked and rested and walked and rested for a couple of hours. Eventually, he made it to the bridge. He scrambled down to the water. He took in a big drink. The water was cool and refreshing. After a bit of rest, the Prince would look into building himself a raft.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Naturally, Princess Angelina heard about the death of King Thorbjorn. Since that day, she got reports of the civil war that raged in Lakeland. While Prince Bjorn claimed the throne, his many siblings were angry at his actions. They did not appreciate the fact that he had taken it upon himself to kill the King. Moreover, many would like to be in his position. Thus, the various children of Thorbjorn broke into various factions. It seemed that each son, no matter where in the line of succession, wanted the kingdom for himself.

When she heard about the ambush, she was impressed with Bjorn's foresight to wait until the King entered Lakeland. If the ambush had occurred on her land, she could consider that an attack on her sovereignty. It could have drawn her kingdom into the war. However, the restraint made the incident an internal affair for Lakeland.

In addition, the Princess did not hear what happened to Prince William. She knew he was traveling with the King at the time. Of the reports she received, none mentioned Prince William. She thought that perhaps he had also died in the ambush. She felt bad about not granting him an audience. Further, her harsh actions made her sad -- about not seeing the Prince. She did not feel the same for the King. In fact, she was somewhat glad that King Thorbjorn was dead.

However, she would now need to negotiate with whomever ended up reigning over Lakeland. Naturally, she could not get any treaty signed until a successor was determined. This could take quite some time. The brothers would not yield to each other easily.

Another worry was that the civil war could spill across Lakeland's borders. With the fighting raging, one of the armies may wish to reclaim her kingdom. With the unpredictability of the situation, she did not wish to see the war spill into her lands. Thus, she would have to do the prudent thing and mobilize a force along the border. The task of this force would be to prevent incursions into her land. They would also handle the refugees.

Thus, once again, she let the unimportant aspects slide. She did not fill in minor posts, and she had not named her kingdom. Those things would have to wait. There were much more important things to worry about.

She immediately appointed some trusted advisors to command the army she would raise. She gave them strict orders on what to do with those seeking asylum. The refugees would swear allegiance to Angelina and be welcomed. However, the army had full reign to deal with anyone who caused trouble.

She allowed her advisors the ability to decide what to do with the stream of people crossing the boarder. However, she did not want them to wander far from the Lakeland border. She knew that they remained Lakelanders despite the war in their lands. They would likely wish to return home.

In her efforts to recruit more for the protective service, she went to the citizenry. In each town she visited, the townspeople gathered around her. Without much trouble, she could raise a substantial fighting force. In fact, she turned many down so they could continue to raise food.

Moreover, it seemed that her entire kingdom was willing to fight for her. She enjoyed such support from her people, that they appeared ready to do anything for her. However, she knew that maintaining such a large standing army would be expensive. She knew that someone had to continue to raise food to keep them fed. Hence, she rationed out the honor of service.

She did note to the ones that remained out of active service that their rolls were just as important -- if not more so. She had read that an army travels on its stomach. Hence, she emphasized that growing food was just as important as fighting. She promised that there would be great rewards for providing a bounty to the army.

She knew that without peace in home, there would be no need for a military to worry about other kingdoms. Thus, she assured everyone that they were an important part of her kingdom. It appeared that her people were grateful to have such a generous leader.

Occasionally during her recruiting tour, she would visit the already gathered troupes. During these visits she received dire reports from Lakeland. She would hear of the atrocities going on in the north. She learned of Prince Bjorn's cruelty. The reports told how he would punish harshly anyone who disobeyed him. Further, with every defeat, the refugees would report of great retaliation. They told stories of how Prince Bjorn was not only harsh to one of his enemies, but was cruel to his own army. Everyone spoke of the would-be-king's tirades.

Many of the soldiers remarked that there leaders were not incredibly bright. In fact, they said that Prince Bjorn's own incompetence caused many of his own defeats. He would rush into battle when his men were not ready. He would call for battle when his opponent had a far superior position. He gave little credence to tactics.

These former soldiers believed that Prince Bjorn felt that he was infallible. Thus, any defeat, he believed, was his army's fault. He believed that his soldiers did not fight hard enough. He would harshly punish his army upon any major or minor defeat. Thus, the soldiers deserted in vast numbers.

However, they reported that it was not much better for the other armies. If a soldier would surrender to one of the other armies, they would never be trusted. Even if they swore fealty to the leader, they would be assigned to POW camps. The conditions at these camps were awful. The fighting men received most of the food. Thus, the prisoners had very little from which to survive. Starvation was common.

Therefore, instead of surrendering to another army, the soldiers would come south. In addition, with rumors of the welcome in the south, soldiers, farmers, and many others and their families began streaming across the border. The Princess did her best to accept anyone crossing the border.

After a few visits with the refugees, she realized that food was going to be an issue. Hence, her recruiting tours turned into pep talks to the farmers. She wanted to make sure everyone knew that their parts were just as important. She wanted to keep morale up for those behind the lines. The Princess did her best to make sure that as much food could be sent to the refugee camps. She wanted everyone to be happy.

However, there was a down side for all of this. The sons of Thorbjorn noticed the increasing army on the boarder of Lakeland. The army had more than doubled in a very short time. This type of thing would not go unnoticed.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William learned that building a simple raft was more difficult than he expected. The first problem arose from the fact that he had no tools. Cutting down trees was impossible without some sort of axe or saw. He looked around for quite a while looking for something, but was unable to locate anything suitable.

Thus, unless he could figure out how to make some workable tools, he had to find his raft materials. Fortunately, for him, there were plenty of resources. He picked a spot near the river to construct his raft. He began placing his materials at this spot.

It was a small clearing and it has ready access to the water. Thus, once his raft was finished, he had a clear path to the water for launch. Furthermore, it was hidden away from the main roads. Thus, he could work in relative secret if anyone should happen to wander by. At least, that is what he hoped he could do.

Despite everything, it was going to take longer than he anticipated. It also did not help that he was still experiencing the effects of the crash. Resting was a frequent necessity. He could not carry (or drag) his logs to his construction place without several rests.

Originally, he had hoped to use 4 or 5 big logs for his raft. This was what he remembered from the story. Unfortunately, he could not find many. Those he found were still attached to more tree. Therefore, even if he could move them, he could not clear off the remaining branches without a saw or axe. Thus, he had to use smaller pieces. This also complicated matters. He would have to make a couple of layers to keep him out of the water.

This is not to mention that he had no idea actually how to build a raft. He had only the vaguest ideas of how a raft would work. He had not thought about actually how to attach the pieces together. Again, the lack of materials was thwarting his efforts.

It took quite a lot of time to find everything. However, his searching was proving well worth the time. He would find some rope here, and a hammer there. He would find a knfie, some nails, some screws, a screwdriver, and many of the things that he could use in building his raft. The down side was that he had no experience with any of these things.

He would find a tool, and think it could be useful. He would not always be certain how to work it. For instance, he was baffled by phillips head screws for quite a while. He wondered why the screws would not work with the standard screwdriver that he had found. It was not until he found a screwdriver with the proper head, did he discover how to use them.

Slowly and methodically, Prince William's raft began to take shape. He took his time in an effort to make it as seaworthy as possible. It was not going to look like much, but he was hopeful that it would take him down the river. He was hoping to avoid the long walk into Princess Angelina's territory.

The raft was made from three levels of medium sized branches. They were lashed, nailed, and screwed together. He found a nice piece of plywood to place on top to give it a deck. He was really glad for that find. He had a rudder made from a single long branch that was flat on one side.

He built a box on the deck for him to sit in. He wanted this to prevent him from sliding off. Further, he could hide in it if it was required. It would also be a place to store things that he did not wish to lose into the river.

However, this deck box would not protect him from any weapon fire. It was not thick enough to repel any bullets. It was fashioned from some small branches, and attached to the deck.

The box had a slot in the back to receive the rudder. Thus, Prince William could sit in the box, and lean against a side and steer the raft. He was quite proud of this portion of the raft. He could navigate down the river in relative comfort. However, just in case, he put the tools in this sitting area. If he needed to make any repairs on his trip he would be ready.

He was not certain where the river led. But, he believed that a civil war was inevitable, and he did not want to be a victim. It was the way of these things. Anyone who may have even a minor claim on the throne was usually killed. Thus, anywhere out of Lakeland would be safer than in the country.

The Prince was happy that Prince Bjorn allowed him to get away. He hoped to ride out the war in hiding. He did not even need to go to Princess Angelina's castle and ask for asylum. There was enough space in her kingdom to hide. He just needed to finish the raft and be off.

He dragged his raft to the river and prepared to launch. The river was deep and wide, and he worried about his craftsmanship. However, it felt solid as he pulled it to the river. He was going to perform a small ceremony, but he heard gunfire in the distance. In a rush, he pushed off. Out into the flowing river he went. He was relieved that the raft performed pretty well.

He wondered how the war was going as he drifted south. The river moved steadily but not swiftly. He hoped that he would make it out of Lakeland. He was reminded how glad he was to make it into Lakeland just a short while ago. Now, he could not wait to get back out.

He really wished he had his suncar as shots rang out close to the river. He wished it had not taken so long to construct his raft because the war was in full swing. The fighting was close by, and he was still far from the border.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The refugees kept streaming across into Princess Angelina's kingdom. The sons of King Thorbjorn were ravaging Lakeland. It was taking a great toll on the citizenry of their country. Further, all the citizens heard of the hospitality offered by the Princess. Instead of being ravaged by war, they grabbed their valuables and headed south. The situation was becoming a problem.

Not to mention, the civil war in Lakeland was destroying the crops. The soldiers would trample on the young plants. Great battles occurred on the prosperous fields. The carnage of the battle would end up destroying young crops. If the battle did not destroy the food, one brother would burn a field to take it away from another brother. Famine was going to be a real problem in Lakeland. Everyone was afraid of the upcoming food shortage. Thus, even more people headed south.

With the growing number of people coming to her kingdom, the Princess even asked her father to provide whatever resources he could spare. He sent his hunters out to bring in whatever game they could to feed the refugees. King Jonathan would do whatever his daughter asked. Thus, the food began flowing from Calmondak.

However, this compounded the problem. The more food available, the more the people would come. The more people, the larger the presence appeared on the boarder. Thus, the more people, the more concerned Lakeland became of the buildup. The Princess would not be able to have such a large population on the boarder without consequences. Nonetheless, she was unwilling to move the refugees farther into the interior where her own people were living.

Hence, the Princess spent a lot of time looking for places to put the refugees. She inquired with King Jonathan, but he could not take them. There was a treaty in place between Lakeland and Calmondak, which forbade the kingdoms from accepting refugees. King Jonathan was reluctant to break the treaty. Thus, Calmondak refused entry to all the refugees that tried to enter. This drove them towards the Princess's kingdom.

Therefore, Princess travelled to the Pirate Peninsula to see if they could take any of the war-weary citizens of Lakeland. She found the same sort of obstacles she had encountered with her previous visit. They would have to gather and vote on what to do. In the mean time, there would be thousands of refugees starving. It did not seem to the Princess that there was enough time.

As the days past, Princess Angelina was struggling with the overwhelming numbers. She wondered what to do to feed them. When visiting her father, she used the google to find out how to catch fish in the rivers. Further, she recruited fishermen while in the peninsula to show her citizens how to catch fish in the gulf. The refugees would need food from any source possible. She thought fish would be a suitable food source. However, the suncar system was not quite adequate to transport all of that food. Something else needed to be used.

She was observing the fishing operation on the main river when she saw something odd. It was a raft floating down the river. She had never seen such a thing. The raft appeared to have gone through a rough time. The river had been rough on the craft, and the raft appeared to be empty.

She ordered her people to pull the raft to shore. It nearly disintegrated when they hooked onto it. Upon the shore, they searched it, and it was as it seemed. There was no one onboard. There was a bit of blood in the rafts box, and it was riddled with holes.

Everyone was amazed that the craft still afloat. They remarked that workmanship was not that great, but it was serviceable. Whomever it belonged to had abandoned it somewhere upriver. From the looks of it, it had smacked some debris in the river. After this incident, it was fortunate to hold together.

The Princess stated that rafts or boats would be of help fishing the river. Further, river transportation could take the food upriver. Since even rough rafts could travel downstream, it would not take much to have them return for more. Thus, it would streamline the delivery of food to where the refugees in need could obtain it. Since the river made it to the gulf, all of the fish could travel in this manner.

Some of her subjects were familiar with river travel. They mentioned ancient riverboat travel. They could use burnable objects to make steam. They seemed to recall that steamboats had long ago disappeared from the river. However, the technology would not be that difficult to replicate. With some experimentation, they could get them going again.

The Princess decided to offer a reward for the best design. There would be several different boats built. Whoever built the most reliable form of transportation would build a fleet of such vessels. This could be a very lucrative proposition. The possibilities for the contract were enormous. Thus, many people began working on designs.

To some of the designers, the Princess noted that perhaps someone could adapt the suncar technology to propel the river traffic. However, solar technology would be dependant on the sun. Thus, they would not be useable at all times. However, she let the participants choose their method.

When the participants were happy with the details of the contest, the Princess ordered some citizens to begin gathering materials to fashion such watercraft. With the gathered materials, several riverboats could be fashioned. They did not have to be in their final state, but they had to be ready quickly. Time was important.

With river traffic reestablished, the Princess could become powerful further up river. She tried not to think about that. However, the warring factions in Lakeland noticed her actions. They were quite concerned. They would not put up with her aggressive moves. They doubled their efforts to end their civil war, so they could then take on Princess Angelina who had a formidable force on the Lakeland border.

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Reunited...

Chapter Forty-Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

As a child, Prince William was very interested in archery. He could not get enough of it. He wanted to know everything about it. He even fashioned crude bows and arrows from twigs and branches he found around the castle in which he lived. No one ever thought that this interest would ever lead to anything. The Prince was glad that this would prove wrong.

When the Prince was collecting resources to make his raft, he knew he would need a source of food. Thus, he also collected items for forming arrows as well as a bow. He knew that a strong branch and some sort of string were all that were required to make the bow. However, the arrows were a completely different story.

If the arrows were to fly straight, they had to be straight. Without the proper tools, getting perfectly round and straight wood was a daunting task. There was also the issue of fletching. He would need to get some feathers to make the arrows. The easiest part of making arrows was fashioning a point.

Nevertheless, he found some items and fashioned a workable bow with a small quiver of arrows. Thus, he could hunt game. In fact, he was successful in feeding himself during the construction of the raft. However, while on the raft, he had other concerns besides watching for animals.

The river wound it way south. If he did not work the rudder, he could easily wash ashore. While it was not a lot of trouble to free the raft, it would take time and effort. With the gunfire he heard at his launch, he did not wish to waste that time. Thus, he wanted to spend most of the time moving. That even meant forgoing sleep for long stretches.

Despite his reluctance to stop, he occasionally had to go ashore for things. He was not willing to attempt to hit anything with his makeshift arrows while travelling down the river. Therefore, he would go on land to hunt from time to time. He would also take these opportunities to sleep. Also, he could gather more supplies. He would attempt to accomplish as much as he could during his trips ashore.

During his time off the raft, he had the feeling that someone was close upon him. Perhaps Bjorn reconsidered, and sent some of his allies to hunt the Prince down. Perhaps it was another brother. Then again, the Prince could be imagining the entire thing. Nonetheless, he wanted to keep moving.

Thus, he fell into somewhat of a routine. When he hit land he would attempt to rest, but he would not rest long. After a brief sleep, he would prepare a meal of the game he caught during the previous landing. He would cut up the game and prepare it while he was still on the raft. After the meal, he would go out and hunt. A while later he would take another rest in a cave or in a tree. If he did not get anything during his hunt, he would hunt some more or gather nuts and berries.

This was his routine for several days. He knew he had to be in Princess Angelina's realm, but he still felt someone was following him. However, he believed he managed to keep ahead of whoever they were. Therefore, he kept up with his routine.

By preparing his game on the raft, his passenger compartment was getting messy. There was quite a lot of blood on the box, and it had already attracted animals. He would return from a trip ashore, and find rats chewing on the wood. Sometimes, it was ravens pecking at the box on his raft. There were any number of animals attracted to the animal left-overs.

In fact, he found that the pests made several holes in his box. However, he needed to continue moving. Thus, it would not be prudent to change his ways. Thus, he would attempt to contain the viscera better. If he did a better job, perhaps that would not attract the scavengers as much. Nevertheless, there would always be blood.

If the smell ever got too much for him, he would wash off the raft with some water. After all, there was plenty to be had. However, he was getting used to the smell. He found that it did not bother him much. He wondered how that could be.

One trip ashore, he was resting in a tree. The wind was such that he could smell himself. His eyes teared up. He could not stand it. Now he understood why the smell did not bother him as much. He smelled awful. He realized that he had not bathed in weeks. Thus, he decided he was going to jump into the river.

He found a spot to place his hunting gear, and clothes and all, he dove into the river. While in the river, he stripped. He then carried his clothes towards the shore and beat his clothes against a rock. After ringing them a few times, he set them on a rock to dry.

He waded out deeper, and he swam around in the brisk water. He dove under the water again and again. He began to enjoy the swim. After one particularly long dive, he surfaced and saw one of his brother's men. Fortunately, the soldier did not see Prince William swimming in the water. He must have been too far off. However, the Prince was sure he recognized the man. Quickly and quietly, the Prince swam to shore. He did not want to do it, but he dressed into his wet clothes.

He grabbed his hunting gear, and watched his brother's man make his way towards the raft. Prince William had a choice to make. Would he attack his brother's man without a word? He certainly could get away with such an action. There was no one around.

On the other hand, perhaps Bjorn had simply sent the man to keep an eye on him. There was nothing wrong with that. The Prince did not want to kill an innocent man without provocation. He sat and pondered the question. He watched as his brother's soldier made it to the raft. The man looked around, and removed the tools from the raft. He emptied out the box as the Prince sat back and watched.

Before the Prince could make up his mind, his brother's man pushed the raft into the current. At that moment, the Prince made up his mind and put an arrow into the man's chest. He fell over dead. The Prince knew that he would have to walk the rest of the way.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Map of Lakeland

The civil war in Lakeland raged onward. The armies were beginning to weaken, and the sons of King Thorbjorn were becoming fewer. This did not weaken the remaining children's resolve to become ruler of the kingdom. In fact, they felt all the closer to the crown; thus, the battles continued.

However, with each passing battle, Prince Bjorn had a better hold of his position. Even in defeat, he would have fewer enemies. With every death on the other side, there was another person fewer to dispute his claim on the throne. After all, he was the eldest. Even King Thorbjorn named him the heir; therefore, many defaulted to his claim.

From a royalty point of view, he had the strongest position with regard to succession. Most of the lords supported him despite everything. Most of the peasants and soldiers also took his side. After all, heirs have been killing the sitting king for most of recorded history.

Hence, with his recruiting superiority, his army was the biggest. Even after each battle, whether won or lost, he and his enemies weakened. He may have lost some supporters, but his position was still strong. He remained the most powerful.

As the civil war continued, Prince Bjorn never shied away from a battle. He was always looking to take the war to one of his siblings. In this way, the war raged on for months. Every army became weaker and weaker, but eventually Prince Bjorn's army killed the final claimant to the throne.

No one knew exactly what happened. The night before the two armies were to engage in battle, the borther had disappeared. The soldiers searched and searched but could not find him. It was just before daybreak and one of his generals found his body later. Nonetheless, his army was undeterred. They met Prince Bjorn in battle. In fact, they were quite fired up, and pushed the Prince from the field.

For several weeks they continued to battle the Prince's army. After all, they believed that Prince Bjorn had killed their king. They did not want that murderer on the throne. They were out for revenge. Further, the officers would likely face death., so they continued to fight.

Nonetheless, they were without a candidate for king. In addition, they had a leadership problem. They had lost their commander-in-chief. Thus, they had a breakdown in the command structure. They became somewhat disorganized and were beginning to in-fight. In a major battle against Prince Bjorn, defeat came swiftly. Thus, the war ended.

After all the battles, the only person who remained with even a remote claim on the throne was Prince William. Prince Bjorn eliminated the remaining claimants to the throne. He even killed the ones who supported him. To finish the task, Prince Bjorn sent out a party of his best men to search for Prince William. Prince Bjorn wanted Prince William dead. He believed that it was a mistake not to kill him on the previous occasion. He was not going to beat himself up over that.

After a brief celebration to the war's end, Prince Bjorn had begun planning his coronation. However, he felt he had some unfinished business with Princess Angelina. She had a large presence on the boarder. She took in many deserters. Moreover, Prince Bjorn felt confident that he could retake the treaty land from the Princess.

With their victories in the civil war, his troupes were seasoned. Furthermore, they would have the element of surprise. While the Princess was off doing who knows what, he attack would be completely unexpected. With the surprise attack, he felt that he could take care of the Princess before he was crowned. Therefore, he could be crowned the sovereign of a reunited kingdom.

Prince Bjorn marched his army south toward the treaty land. While his army was seasoned, they were exhausted when they arrived at the border. However, the Prince did not wish to waste any time. Therefore, he wanted to attack the refugees without much in the way of preparation.

The Prince and his army marched across the border without opposition. The Lakeland army prepared for battle, and marched into one of the refugee camps. They were astonished to find it empty. Prince Bjorn stood there stunned. Why would it be empty?

At the center of the Lakeland line, the Prince stood. He pondered what could be happening as the sound of battle filtered towards his position from his left flank . One of his commanders yelled It's a trap! He snapped out of his inaction and began barking out orders.

"Squad 2!" he shouted. "Help support the left flank! Squad 1 protect the center! Squad 3 prepare to assist squad 2! Squad 4 protect the center!"

Soldiers in his army began moving to their positions. The second squad moved towards the left flank, and the first squad surrounded the Prince's position. His army created a strong center position. Another wave of fighting broke out on the right flank.

"Squad 2!" Prince Bjorn shouted. "Help support the right flank!"

"But sir," replied the second squad's commander. "We are supporting the left flank. Perhaps squad 3 or 4..."

"Are you disobeying my order?" asked the Prince.

The commander immediately pulled his men off the left flank and went to support the right. The raging battle on the left became closer and closer to the Prince's position. The third squad began engaging the attacking army on the left.

"Squad 1!" the Prince shouted. "Protect the center! Squad 2 protect the left flank!"

Without a word of protest, the second squad disengaged the right flank and moved to the left. Without the support of the second squad, the right flank began to collapse. As they heard the order for the second squad to support their position, they broke and ran. The rout was on.

"Hold the line!" the Prince shouted as the soldiers fighting on the left flank turned and ran.

However, Prince Bjorn's army was surrounded. There was no place for them to turn. They ran into the Prince's position. The only direction open was towards Lakeland, and that was quickly closing.

"No retreating!" shouted the Prince.

However, his army was already running around. They scattered, and many ran back towards Lakeland. The soldiers not protecting the King had stopped fighting and were simply ran around. Any soldier that did not surrender was cut down. The fighting around Prince Bjorn's position intensified. When the fighting became too intense, the first and forth squads abandoned him. His generals and troupes took on the attacking army.

The defending army destroyed Prince Bjorn's left and right flank. They cut off the path of retreat and surrounded Prince Bjorn and his soldiers. Nonetheless, Prince Bjorn refused to surrender. The Prince urged on the fighting.

After several minutes of very intense fighting, Prince Bjorn lied dead on a pile of Lakeland soldiers. In his rush, the Prince lost his life and his kingdom. Dead bodies covered the once peaceful refugee camp. Pools of blood soaked into the ground.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina learned of the battle with Lakeland well after the incident. She was in the southern part of her kingdom inspecting the river boats when the fight took place. She was thankful that her people took the initiative to be ready for battle. However, this left Lakeland without a leader.

The civil war against Prince Bjorn had led to chaos in Lakeland. Now, as far as the Princess knew, there was no heir to the Lakeland throne. No one in Lakeland believed there was an heir to the throne. Without a known heir, many of the Lakeland nobles restarted the civil war. Each attempted to make his claim on the throne; however, none of them had much support among the people. It looked like Lakeland would remain in chaos for a bit longer. A state that the commoners could ill afford.

The Princess took one of the challenging boats north up the great river. If the Lakeland civil war was to rage again, there would be more refugees. She wanted to prepare for this eventuality. There was a limited amount of supplies that she could provide for the people of Lakeland. She needed to determine how the refugees were managing.

While she was there, she wanted to meet with her generals. They were the ones who waged the victory. She had reason to believe that the victor of any future Lakeland civil war would attempt to reclaim her kingdom just as Prince Bjorn had. They could claim she attacked Bjorn to gain support. Also, she did not wish to be caught off guard a second time.

The refugees cheered her arrival. The ovation caught her by surprise. She was attending to other things when the battle occurred, and had nothing to do with the victory. Yet, the people gave her the credit. Perhaps they were grateful that they helped them.

Nonetheless, she greeted her people warmly and with gratitude. She realized that her policy of welcoming deserting soldiers into her army worked to her advantage. These soldiers were responsible for the defeat of Prince Bjorn. They were familiar with his tactics and took advantage of them.

To the cheering crowds, the Princess saluted the soldiers and generals responsible for the defeat of Prince Bjorn. She also saluted those that had fallen. However, she found out that few on her side had died. It was a very lopsided victory. Thus, she decided to include the fallen on the other side in her salute. After all, the crowd was largely from Lakeland, and some may know the slain.

When she met privately with those directly responsible for the victory, they urged her to "end the chaos" in Lakeland. They urged her to claim the Lakeland throne. After all, she was from a royal line, and thus more qualified than any of the nobles.

Further, she could reunite Lakeland herself. In addition, she had defeated the sovereign of Lakeland; thus, she had a claim to the throne. As far as anyone knew, there was no legitimate heir to the throne, and she could claim it with quite a bit of support. It could bring a quick end to the current situation in Lakeland.

The Princess did not think she should simply invade. She did not want people to call her Angelina the Conqueror. However, she knew she had wide support of her people and many people in Lakeland. In her tour of surrounding kingdoms, the people of Lakeland rallied and cheered. Hence, she decided to talk to the refugees discretely. They would be the best judge for this course of action.

She found that the refugees overwhelming supported her becoming sovereign of all of Lakeland. Everyone she talked to urged her to reign over a reunited Lakeland. Moreover, they were willing to fight for her. She reminded them that this invasion would no longer be a safe refuge in her kingdom. In fact, there was no place where they could run to if things got bad. They would have to live in one war torn country or another, but they were overwhelmingly resolute. They did not wish to have any other ruler. They knew the nobles of their land, and they did not find any of them suitable.

After a several discrete conversations with random citizens of Lakeland, she would take the conversation to the crowd. It was one thing to gain the support of a few people here and there, but how would the entire crowd react? Despite her fears, they cheered and would have rushed to the border at that time. She had overwhelming support of the refugees, and the few citizens of her own kingdom that were present. Thus, she felt it was a course of action she not only could take but should take. She gathered her advisors and generals together and began making plans.

Lakeland had little in the way of an army. Most of the trained soldiers had deserted or had been killed in the civil war. The fighting nobles did not have much with which to work. What they did have to work with were ill trained. Therefore, when Princess Angelina's forces crossed the boarder, they surrendered readily. He units swelled instead of shrank as she moved north.

In fact, as her army did not engage in any battles. As her army approached, any Lakeland forces put down their weapons and surrendered. Her soldiers did not have to fire a single shot. The Princess marched uncontested into the capitol of Lakeland. There were some nobles that complained about her invasion, but they could not do anything about it.

The Princess had overwhelming support from the peasants, the army, and even most nobles. Thus, she marched into power into a reunited Lakeland. She began to prepare for her coronation. She would abandon her castle complex, and move into King Thorbjorn's castle. There was nothing standing in her way, when Prince William showed up.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William was in Princess Angelina's territory. He had been there for weeks. However, he was far from any civilization. Further, he was fairly certain that Prince Bjorn had sent people out to kill him. Thus, any sound he heard or movement he spotted in the woods made him jump. His increased caution slowed his progress greatly. It was going to take him a while to reach a major city.

He thought about moving by night. In this way, he could move more quickly. No one would able to identify him in the dark. Thus, it would be safer for him.

On the other hand, he would have to find a good place to hide and sleep during the day. He would be very vulnerable at this time. This vulnerability would likely prevent him from sleeping soundly. Therefore, he decided that moving by day was the best option.

The Prince began moving along the river. However, he noticed a lot more movement there. Something was happening, but he did not know what. He just knew he had better get away from the river. He decided to follow a road west towards the Princess's castle complex. He would not walk on the road, he would follow it as close as he could but remain hidden.

It was very slow going. While making his way along the road, he also had to find food. Fortunately, he still had the tools he had gathered. His brother's man was kind enough to dump them on the ground rather than sending them with the raft. Thus, he could make and repair his hunting gear.

The Prince continued west slowly. He walked for a few days, and neared a town. As he got near the town, he found it strangely deserted. He wondered where the people were. As he walked along, he had avoided a few people who were farming some fields. However, he thought he would find a town teaming with life. Further, he was hungry and tired. In the town, he thought he might be able to barter for a room for the night. However, he found all of the businesses closed.

The Prince thought this was an odd situation. It would not be so odd if the Princess were at war. Hence, he concluded that the civil war in Lakeland was over, but the victor had decided to attack the Princess. In this way, the citizens would rally around the Princess and defend her land. A majority of the townspeople would head north towards Lakeland to aid in the war effort. The Prince thought that this was the most likely reason for the town to be empty.

It did not imply that he was safe to walk around openly. In fact, he could be in even more danger. He was almost an enemy to both kingdoms. He may be able to talk his way out of a confrontation, but they may not stop to make any determination. He quietly left the town.

After a few days more of travel, he crossed paths with a caravan headed north. It seemed to him that it was a military group heading to the war. Being as exhausted as he was, he was going to take a chance. He needed a good meal and some rest. Therefore, he would attempt to infiltrate the group. He would pretend to be a citizen joining their march.

"I have finally caught up to you," the Prince stated to one of the citizens marching north.

"Welcome," the young man returned. "You should speak to General Cheavers."

"I will. What word from Lakeland?"

"Have you not heard?"

"I was on a hunting expedition when word came to head north. I did not bother to ask for specifics."

"Bjorn is dead. He attacked our kingdom and was soundly defeated. The Princess has decided to claim the crown of Lakeland."

"What of the heirs?"

"There are none."

"Where would I find the General?" the Prince asked.

"He will be somewhere up front."

"Thanks!" the Prince said as he hurried towards the front of the convoy.

Resting and eating would now have to wait. With Bjorn and his brothers dead, everything had changed. From what he could tell, he was the sole heir to Lakeland. It was now his chance. He could have the kingdom that he had always wanted. However, it depended on what the Princess did, and it may be too late.

"General Cheaver, what would you say if I told you that there was an heir to the Lakeland throne."

"I would tell you to keep it to yourself."

"But, I am Prince William the heir to the throne of Lakeland!"

"I would not say that too loudly," replied the General.

"What? Why?"

"Our Angelina has claimed the Lakeland throne. The Thorbjorn family no longer rules."

"Then why are you marching this army north?"

"We are going to the coronation of our new sovereign. If you are truly an heir to the Lakeland throne, it is my duty to remove you from contention."

"I do not wish to make trouble," replied the Prince.

That is good, because if you plan to make trouble, your life will end here and now."

"Princess Angelina and I are lifelong friends. I wish her no harm, and she certainly would wish me none."

"Then you are William and you can forget about this heir to the throne business."

"I understand General."

Thus, Prince William joined the group heading towards the Princess's coronation. Perhaps now she would marry him. She was a popular and powerful sovereign. He knew that they both had feelings towards each other. He believed that she would be happy that he was still alive. She may even be happy to see him.

Hence, he did what he was told and hid his identity. Once again, he survived on the graciousness (or ignorance) of a person in power. His brother Bjorn did not kill him when he had the chance. Now, General Cheaver did not kill him. It was on the condition that he did not make trouble. Therefore, he did what the General told him to do. He traveled on and even looked forward to seeing Angelina again.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The people of Lakeland were gathering to witness the coronation of the Princess. She was to be crowned the sovereign of all of their kingdom. The town by the castle of Lakeland was crowded with well-wishers. The coronation was going to be the biggest event in Lakeland history. After all, Lakeland was larger and more powerful now than it had been for King Thorbjorn's coronation. Further, the citizenry were tired of war. They looked forward to a celebration.

The castle was being decorated for the occasion. The Princess loved plants, and so the decorators placed pots of flowering plants all around the grounds. Moreover, the stage where the ceremony would take place had been completed months before hand. The vines planted to cover it had begun to take hold. There would be plenty of plants and flowers decorating the castle.

Everywhere you looked, there were crowds. The inns were full. Temporary housing was being constructed in every possible location. It was as if the entire country was gathering in one place to see the coronation. So many of the citizens of the kingdom gathered there, that entire towns stood empty.

Food had been arriving for weeks. The riverboats, that the Princess had ordered, began to run in earnest. They brought up supplies from the southern most parts of the kingdom. Instead of taking the food to the refugee camps, the food went into the town. This allowed the inns to feed the gathering celebrants. Now that the civil war was over, the merchants could use what they learned to manage supplies. It was fortunate that the Lakeland castle sat upon the great river.

The Prince arrived with the group from the south. He went right into the castle to see Princess Angelina. She saw him and gave him a big hug.

"I was afraid that Bjorn had -- well -- killed you," the Princess said after their long embrace.

"He had the opportunity," replied Prince William. "But, for some reason he decided to pass."

"That was lucky! Many of your siblings were not so lucky."

"It was a terrible thing for him to do."

"I am just glad you are all right."

"Perhaps now you will consent to marry me," the Prince stated boldly.

"I thought we had a bet, and you lost it."

"I -- it is just that since then so much has changed."

"Has it?" the Princess asked coldly.

"All of Lakeland is at your feet."

"That does not change the realities of ruling."

"You are going to be the ruler of Lakeland. What more could you want?"

"That is my point. I am going to be the ruler -- not you."

"We could rule together..."

"We have been over this before, yet you still do not understand."

"I suppose I do not."

"I care about you. I do!"

"The feeling is mutual," the Prince interrupted.

"Having said that, I am ruling Lakeland. Me. That is what I want, and that is the way it is going to be."

"And?"

"And, if we were married, how would my rule reflect upon you?"

"I do not care about that."

"You say that, but you and I both know that it is not true."

"How can you say that?"

"Let us say that there is a decision to be made and we disagree. How would you feel if I always got my way?"

"I do not think that always..."

"Always! It is my decision. I get to have my way."

"I guess I would feel a bit -- I do not know -- ignored."

"While that is not the word I would use, that is the idea. That is how it would be. I am the ruler of Lakeland. If you are going to make trouble..."

"I promised I would not make trouble."

"Then, drop this marriage bit. After all, you did lose the bet."

"All right, I will drop it. However, where am I to go? Can I not live in my own kingdom?"

"You are certainly welcome to live here. I may even let you live in the castle if you wish. However, it is simply out of courtesy."

"Courtesy?"

"Well -- and my feelings for you."

"If I stay, do you expect me to be some sort of consort?"

"Now you are getting the feeling that I want you to get."

"I see," the Prince said with a downtrodden look.

"Do not take it that way. It is the only way we can remain friends."

"Friends? I do not think I could take seeing you, and -- well -- you know."

"I like having you around..."

"Do not patronize me. I can tell when I am not wanted."

"Please, do not go."

"I will see your coronation, but then I will find my own way."

"As you wish," replied the Princess with a touch of sadness.

The day of the coronation drew near, and Princess Angelina and Prince William did not speak for the remainder of that time. The Princess felt that William was avoiding her. However, she had plenty of work to accomplish. There were always arrangements to be made. She always had to make this decision or that. Everything was coming along well.

As all of the things began to fall into place, she began to wonder what could go wrong. The process had been smooth up to that point. Even the unpredictable plants did as expected. The plants were green and alive. Fewer than expected died. Everything was looking great. Nonetheless, the Princess had a fear that something would go wrong.

A week before the coronation, she heard that the eastern kingdoms were meeting with each other. She thought they were going to release a joint statement in celebration of her coronation. While the meeting did seem unusual, she was not concerned about the event. However, she should have been.

With everyone gathered in one place, much of the kingdom was unprotected. Further, Lakeland had just gone through a bloody civil war. Thus, the ranks of their army was greatly reduced. The surrounding kingdoms decided this would be an ideal time to attack.

Reports of the kingdoms' invasions came to the Princess just days before her coronation day. Thus, the Princess needed to postpone the ceremony and take her army east.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the cancellation of the Princess's coronation, Prince William did not know what he was going to do. He thought about sticking around the castle and waiting for the conflict to be resolved. However, he did not care for that option. After all, people would not look kindly upon him if the Princess were to lose. He also did not wish to be thought of as a hanger-on.

Further, he considered joining the fight. Showing his worth to the Princess he thought would be a noble pursuit. On the other hand, he was the only known heir to the Lakeland throne. No one would trust his motives. He would find it difficult to get anyone to follow his orders. He felt that he would hinder the war effort rather than help it. Thus, he believed that his presence would not be helpful to Lakeland let alone the Princess.

Therefore, he decided to leave the realm quietly. He had not spoken to the Princess for weeks. While he would have liked to have said goodbye, he thought it best to just depart. She made it clear that she would never marry the Prince, so he had no reason to stay or even say goodbye.

Despite the death of his entire family, his father still had assets in Lakeland. The Princess would not begrudge him a few things. One of the items at his disposal was a suncar. Therefore, he packed his things in the suncar and headed out. He did not know where he was going to go, but he knew he had to get away. Perhaps he would return for the coronation, but perhaps not.

To the west was Calmondak. It was the kingdom Princess Angelina's father ruled. The Prince found it to be his home away from home. He had spent many years there. However, he had gone into the Forbidden Zone. For this action, on a few occasions, someone had attempted to kill him. He was not willing to give anyone another attempt. Thus, it was probably not a place he could ask for asylum.

The kingdoms to the east of Lakeland had declared war. He could not claim loyalty to Lakeland and live in one of these kingdoms. Further, the Princess would think that he was still angling for her throne by declaring allegiance to one of these kingdoms. After all, if this alliance won the war, they may install the sole heir as king of a less powerful and smaller Lakeland. This simply would not do.

Therefore, his only choice was to return to the Pirate Penninsula. He was a man without a kingdom, and he was a man without a home. Perhaps he would be welcomed there. He had done them no harm -- well -- except help his father escape. Nonetheless, no one there knew he did that. Since it was really his only choice, he pointed his suncar in that direction.

After a few minutes driving away from the castle at Lakeland, he stopped. He got out of the car and looked back. He believed he would never see it, or Princess Angelina, again. He stood there a while and pondered things. He mouthed the word farewell and got back into his vehicle. He began traveling down the main road south.

With war, there are always refugees -- civilians attempting to get away from the fighting. However, in this case, most of the citizenry had nowhere to go. Calmondak had declared itself neutral in all things involving Lakeland. Hence, the refugees could not go there. The remaining kingdoms of Morica were at war with Lakeland. Hence, the only place to go was the Pirate Peninsula.

While the peninsula would mostly accept anyone, they would provide no resources for survival. Hence, if you went there, you would have to pay for your own food, water, shelter, etc. Thus, in reality, there was no place for the civilians to go. Fortunately, the Prince had resources.

As he drove along, he marveled at the empty roads. He expected to run into a few carts or people walking. He thought that he might run into vehicles taking the war to the invaders. However, the main road was empty. He was beginning to think he was in the eye of the storm. After a few miles, he would run into a great conflict, and his journey would be cut short. As he continued to travel, he continue to have his doubts about making it.

He kept travelling and as the sun was setting, and his suncar began losing power. The Prince needed a place to spend the night. He was in a war zone, but he had seen no evidence of combat. He thought that perhaps the nearby kingdom simply entered Lakeland and occupied some territory. After all, most of the citizens had gathered at the castle for a coronation. Nonetheless, he could run into trouble at any point.

He stopped his car but stayed near the main road. He found a nice spot to set up camp. He erected his small tent in a nearby ravine. He camouflaged it with some sticks and leaves. It was practically invisible from the road. He parked the suncar a little distance away. He did not bother hiding it because he felt that would draw more attention to it.

He was extremely cautious, so he did not start a fire. He ate his little meal cold, and stayed close to his car for a while. He kept a watchful eye out for any movement. After a few hours, he was still struggling to stay awake. Eventually, he could no longer stay awake, so he got into his tent. For a while, every sound and rustle would arouse him. Eventually he drifted off.

He was aroused by the sound of thunder. At first, he thought it was an explosion or gunfire. However, another clap of thunder confirmed that it was a storm. He pulled up his camp, and put everything in the suncar. He was surprised that he had slept pretty well as it was after dawn.

He got into the car and thought about leaving; however, it was quite dark. The clouds were thick and blocked out the sun. His suncar would only have minimal power on a day like this. It began raining in earnest. The rain came down quite hard. It was a hearty thunderstorm.

Hence, he was going to have to stay there until the storm passed. The way it looked, it could be several hours before the rain let up. That is not what he wanted to do. He wanted to get on the road. He could make it to the peninsula before dark if he could get going. The rain was keeping him from leaving. He sat in his car and fretted.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina spoke with her many advisors. The invasion had caught them by surprise. The three kingdoms had as many issue with themselves as they did with Lakeland. It was nearly unthinkable that they would cooperate on anything. Thus, Lakeland had not prepared for such an event. Lakeland was quite capable of taking on any of them singly, and they knew it. However, it was quite another thing to take them all together.

Some advisors had experiences with a neighboring kingdom. In this way, the Princess's advisors each offered different advice. Depending upon how it went, they would either want to invade one kingdom or another first or last.

There was talk of divide and conquering. That is, fight the middle kingdom first, and divide the opposing forces. The Kingdom of Nunu was the weakest of the three. Thus, most of the advisors believed that it would be the easiest to defeat.

Nunu had once contained several of the most prosperous and powerful cities in the world. It was a powerful place in Morica. However, these cities were destroyed in the great war and other natural phenomena. The place was a minor shadow of its once greatness.

A ruler would rise up and promise the return to prosperity for the kingdom. However, if it did not happen in any sort of reasonable timeline, a civil war would break out. Eventually, the sovereign would be deposed. Hence, with its internal strife, the kingdom was unable to build anything meaningful, like economic prosperity or a large standing army.

However, the Princess and others thought attacking Nunu was foolish. After all, when the defeat of Nunu occurred, the Lakeland army would be then fighting on two fronts. With their forces depleted as they were, they could not afford to divide their attentions. While attacking the weakest kingdom had its merits, the Princess did not think it was the best option.

That led to discussions of either going north or south. The Maritime Kingdom consisted of a number of of a number of islands and section of land connected to the mainland. However, it could only be reached by land from Lakeland through Nunu. It could not be reached by any other land route.

The Maritime Kingdom was a seagoing people. They owed their prosperity to the sea. They also had plenty of natural resources like iron and timber which they shipped worldwide. Generally, they were a peaceful people, but they wished to gain more farmland. They had to trade for much of their grain as the climate was not conducive to much farming.

Without a land route, it would be foolish to attack them first. Lakeland would have to assemble their naval forces. Also, they would have to take attack Maritime in their strongest defense. Their powerful navy would certainly take its toll on any Lakeland advance. They were much more vulnerable by land. Hence, the logical option was to begin in the south and work north.

The Kaanfed Kingdom was just north of the Pirate Peninsula. It was the most balanced of the three kingdoms. It had a prosperous textile production facility. Their farms produced more than enough food for its citizens. They traded their surplus abroad. It was ruled by the brother of the king of the Maritime Kingdom. The two kings' lifelong feud normally kept them from cooperating. Thus, they did not trade, which would have been beneficial to both kingdoms. Thus, their trades were more costly than need be.

It was decided. Princess Angelina gathered her forces and began heading south. They hoped to avoid confrontation until they entered Kaanfed. Lakeland had suffered enough in its civil wars. Any further conflict could damage the already fragile existence of the citizens. Hence, they sent scouts to look for the enemy in an attempt to avoid them.

The caravan moved slowly. However, it was able to move both day and night and in any weather. When the storm began raging, the Princess's thoughts turned to Prince William. She wondered where he had gone. She would have liked to see him again, but she understood how he felt. Her thoughts soon drifted on to other things.

The storm raged for most of the day, and slowed the movement of the army caravan only slightly. They could not use the suncars, so the animals got extra duty. With the rain, there was little chance that these animals would overheat. They would also have plenty of water. The caravan would need to stop and feed them, but they could go great distances without rest.

The scouts reported in regularly. They discovered that the invaders had taken several cities. Thus, the caravan would need to avoid the cities. The Lakeland plan was to enter the Kaanfed capitol. If they could do that with little fighting beforehand, this would force the Kaanfed troops to withdraw to protect their homes. In this way, they would fight on Kaanfed land rather than Lakeland.

However, this had its drawbacks. First, they would have to not engage the enemy. That was going to be quite a task as the locals would want the invaders off their land. Further, they could be easily surrounded by the enemy. The Kaanfed troupes in the Lakeland cities could follow behind. Once the Lakeland army engaged with the Kaanfed army, they could have the Lakeland army surrounded.

Nonetheless, the Princess and her advisors believed that while the plan was daring, it had the best chance of success. If they could take the Kaanfed capitol, they could use its defenses against its own army. Further, they would have negotiation power of the king -- if he was not in his castle.

The army kept moving. The roads were quiet as they moved. It seemed that everyone in Lakeland was marching towards Kaanfed. It was amazing that they avoided conflict with anyone until after they left their kingdom. However, when they marched into Kaanfed, everything changed.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The storm raged for most of the day, and Prince William could do nothing about it. He sat in his suncar and worried. He was in the middle of a war zone, and all he could do was sit in his vehicle and wait.

With the limited amount of sun that made it through the storm clouds, his suncar batteries were getting some charge. However, he would not be able to go far. Further, if he found that he had to get away fast, he would lose the distance he could travel. On days like this, he wished that he had another form of transportation. For now, all he could do was sit and worry.

With every clap of thunder, he jumped. Every crackle and boom he thought was gunfire or worse. It was just the storm, but he could not relax. He fidgeted and squirmed in his seat until the storm passed. It seemed that the storm raged and then went away. The sun began to peak through the clouds. He could go farther down the road, but it would not be worth it. So, he decided to set up his tent in the same place he had the previous night.

When he went to the ravine, it was now full of water. The once dry ravine was now a babbling brook. Unless the Prince wanted to camp in the middle of a stream and get soaking wet, he was not going to be able to set up his tent in the same spot. Hidden in the ravine was such a good spot, but it was not going to happen this night. His tent was likely to be much more visible now.

A little way off there was a clump of trees. They were on a bit of a rise, so the ground would be moderately dry around them. He would have to find a suitably flat spot that the trees shielded from the road. That was a bit of a problem. In many places, the tree roots were exposed. The Prince did not want to lie on the exposed roots. On the other hand, if he moved far enough from the trees, he lost his cover. He had a decision to make.

He decided that he would not sleep much in either instance, so he found as flat a surface as he could near the trees. The Prince gathered up some grass and leaves to cushion the ground a bit. He felt that cover was more important that comfort. Thus, his spot was chosen to be mostly invisible to the road. He grabbed some underbrush to hide his tent even more. When his camp was set up, he was satisfied that it would not be spotted from the road.

Despite the clearing clouds, some light showers fell upon him. The sun was shining, but he was still getting rained upon. He felt that was just his luck.

Also from the wet of the rain, he walked around the damp ground. Thus, when his camp was finished, he longed to be dry. He grumbled at the situation, but what was done was done. Nonetheless, it meant he wanted to start a fire. It would dry him out.

Away from his tent and away from the suncar, he found a spot to build the fire. There was plenty of wood around, so he gathered quite a bit. It was still early evening, and he would not be getting into his tent for several more hours. He also thought a warm meal would be good.

Some of the wood was wet, but it was not long before there was a big hot fire. He used the fire to dry out some of the wood before placing it on the fire. It was larger than he wanted, but it felt too good to contain it.

It was still light out, so it would not be noticed from afar, the Prince reasoned.

Thus, he did not attempt to keep it contained. He dried his clothes as he stood around the fire in some undergarments. He was warm and getting dry and it felt great.

He cooked his meal over the fire, and he kept putting more and more wood into it. The Prince kept it contained with some rocks, so there was no worry about setting the place on fire. Thus, he did not worry about how big it got. He planned on letting it die down as soon as it began to get dark.

As the sun went down, Prince William was still enjoying the fire. It could be seen for miles. It was burning too brightly by the time he realized what he had done. He put some damp grass and leaves onto it in an attempt to put it out. All it did was put out a large cloud of smoke. The smoke turned bright white against the twilight. It was even more obvious than the fire.

Further, there was no wind, so the cloud of smoke hung over his camp. It practically pointed right to him. He smacked himself in the head for being so dumb. He ran up to the road to check it out. In the distance, he could not see anything. He listened for any sound. He stood there for several minutes, but all was silent.

He sniffed the air, but all he could smell was burning damp grass. That did not make him happy. However, he did not know what he was attempting to get from smelling the air.

All signs led him to believe that he did not attract any attention. He let out a big sigh. He decided to completely put out his fire. He gathered up more leaves and grass to help smother the fire. Then he realized there was plenty of water in the ravine. He grabbed a bucked from his supplies and collected some water.

After putting more leaves and grass on the fire, he poured the water slowly onto the fire. It hissed and steamed. He gathered another bucket and made sure the fire was completely out. The big fire pit might be noticeable, but not more so than his suncar. He was confident his tent was well hidden, so he was not concerned about the situation.

It was now quite dark. The sun was completely down. He was going to check the road one more time, but when he turned there was a man all in black standing behind him.

"Aaaaaahhhh!" he yelled instinctively.

The man rushed him, and tackled him to the ground. Before the Prince could utter another sound, the man covered the Prince's mouth.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Morica Kingdom War Map

Princess Angelina's scouts were doing their job well. They spread out before the marching army. They intercepted spies, set false trails and rumors, and found where the enemy was waiting. The enemy had taken several Lakeland cities.

In any event, the large marching army went mostly unnoticed by the enemy. They were able to avoid any fighting for their week-long march southeast towards the Kaanfed Kingdom. It was remarkable that no one noticed the enormous group's movements and they encountered so little resistance.

This all changed when the entered the Kaanfed Kingdom. The Lakeland army's first act was to disrupt the supply line for the Kaanfed army in Lakeland. This got the attention of all of the parties involved. The Kaanfed army was spread through several cities in Lakeland. They divided up their forces in an effort to take these cities and hold them.

However, the Kaanfed army did not anticipate this action from Lakeland. They did not think they would have to defend their own soil. The generals thought they would be fighting in Lakeland towns. Hence, it would take them several days to gather themselves and return to Kaanfed.

Because of their tactics, Princess Angelina and the massive Lakeland army marched right into the capitol city with little resistance. Much of the opposing army was still in Lakeland. Thus the minor skirmishes were quick and the victories went to Lakeland.

Princess Angelina's forces first wished to secure the capitol city. The city was poorly serviced by the major roads before the great war. Thus, a simple route would not be available. Angelina's army had to use lesser routes. The city itself was never very large, but its isolation had been a big advantage in some of invasion attempts.

The isolation was a double edged sword. While enemies would find it difficult to get to the city, so would supplies, troops, etc. In previous invasions, Kaanfed's army fought in retreat towards the city. In this way, they depleted much of the opposition before it reached the city. This is how they were victorious.

With a majority of the army expecting to battle in Lakeland, the Princess's army faced little opposition. Hence, they arrived at the city with nearly a full compliment of soldiers.

The Kaanfed capitol sat entirely south of a river. The kingdom had built a wall to completely surround the city. The Lakeland generals were aware of this fact, and they marched in from the southeast.

There were a few guards at the gates, but they were quickly overrun. The Princess had captured the city fairly easily. However, they would need to withstand the returning army. Fortunately, the city's defenses were sparsely covered when the Lakeland forces entered. Now, the Lakeland army would use these defensive positions against their own army.

However, the castle complex was well fortified. The king of Kaanfed had not gone with his troops. He had a small contingent guarding his position. Therefore, the Lakeland army needed to prepare for the siege. The city's protections would protect them as they assaulted the castle. That is, if the Kaanfed army returned before the castle was taken.

The castle had not seen a siege for quite some time. No army had made it passed the capitol city's defenses in several years. Nonetheless, the Lakeland army greatly outnumbered those guarding the castle. They would need to wear down those forces.

In the twilight hours, the Princess's army built its siege towers and other siege weaponry. They erected trebuchets and battering ram systems. This type of siege perhaps had never occurred in Morica. However, the Lakeland army did not wish to use its gunpowder if it did not have to.

Upon the daybreak, they began flinging rocks and debris at the castle. Further, the battering rams took quick work of the castle gates. There were some skirmishes, but a majority of the Kaanfed forces kept retreating into the main keep.

The Lakeland forces cautiously worked their way to the main citadel. This building was large and sturdy. It was not tall like the Lakeland castle. It was a few stories tall, but surrounded by a wall with a single gate. The gate was heavy and made from steal. It was well maintained and would be difficult to breach. Further, it was well guarded and any approach to the gate was met with much resistance.

However, the surrounding wall had not been as well maintained. The army looked for a particular week point away from the forces protecting the gate. The Lakeland army set up their siege at this place in the wall. After a few strikes with the battering ram, the section of wall fell. With a few rounds with the trebuchet, the way was clear.

The fighting began in earnest when the wall was breached. The King of Kaanfed ordered his forces into the battle. He recalled the forces from the gate to aid in the fighting at the breach. When the gate was abandoned, the Lakeland forces streamed thought the gate. Thus, Lakeland forces could attack the now exposed flank of the Kaanfed forces.

Once this happened, the battle was over quickly. Many Kaanfed soldiers surrendered as the wave of Lakeland fighters surrounded them. The Princess urged her people, and this spurred great courage in them. They fought bravely and without mercy. With the Princess directing the battle,and the Kaanfed King cowering in the citadel, much of the enemy army was disheartened. They began giving up in large numbers.

The battle at the citadel wall ended with the Lakeland forces capturing much of the Kaanfed guards. The siege of the main building was all that was left. The Princess entered the building with a small contingent of soldiers. As she entered the King's hall, he killed himself. The battle for the Kaanfeld capitol was over.

The first victory felt easy. However, the main force of the Kaanfed army would be heading towards the city. The battles were just beginning. Further, there would be spies or scouts informing the Nunu and Maritime armies what had happened. The Princess's forces would not have it as easy fighting the remaining forces.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William struggled with his assailant. He tried to free himself from the grasp, but he was unable. Nonetheless, he kept up his struggle.

"Prince William," whispered the man into the Prince's ear. "Calm yourself."

With the man's hand over his mouth, the Prince was unable to respond. However, he did stop struggling.

"That is better," the man continued. "Now, I am going to let you go. Please be quiet and refrain from running."

The Prince nodded, and the man released him. The Prince turned to look at his attacker.

"Who are you?" asked the Prince. "How do you know me?"

"It is me Lars Thomsen. We practically grew up together in the castle."

"Lars? Is that really you?"

"It really is."

"What are you doing here?"

"I am scouting for Lakeland."

"Scouting?"

"The Lakeland army is on the move. They are attempting to get into Kaanfed without being noticed."

"That sounds like quite an undertaking."

"I thought so too, but the Kaanfed army seems to be concentrated in a few towns. You are the only person I have run into this entire trip."

"That makes sense. They are probably preparing for a siege on those towns."

"We have been giving those towns a wide birth. Hopefully, we will be in Kaanfed in a few days."

"Well I have not seen any soldiers on my trip."

"Why are you scouting the same area as I am?"

"I am not a participant in this military action."

"No? Then what are you doing?"

"I am headed to the peninsula."

"For what purpose?"

"I am not wanted or needed in Lakeland. It is the only place I can go."

"You are a member of the Thorbjorn royal family."

"I am the only member left. That can only spell trouble for me."

"Oh yes. I suppose that is true."

"That is why I am leaving. I may return once this conflict is over."

"I should join you."

"What? And be a deserter? You best continue with your duties. Do what is best for Lakeland. Do not worry about me."

"I should report you to the generals."

"No please!"

"They should be aware of your movements, and what if you are captured?"

"Captured by whom?"

"I do not know, but there may be hostiles out there."

"They will not get anything out of me."

"Let us hope not."

"Please do not report that we have met. No one needs to know where I am."

"Okay, I will not."

"Thanks! Good to see you Lars. Be safe."

"Good luck on your trip -- sire."

Lars walked down the road and disappeared. The Prince stood and watched for quite a while. The shot of adrenaline he got from the encounter had worn off. He was now quite sleepy.

He got another bucket, and poured it on his fire. It was now very much out. He stirred it a bit to be sure. The logs were cool to the touch. It was out. He gave a heavy sigh. His encounter went better than it could have, but it was still a lesson learned.

He had proclaimed his presence for miles around. He thought about this. He began to worry again. The words of Lars rang through his head. There may be others out there. There may be entire squads closing in on his position.

Thus, he decided to hide his suncar. He pulled it farther up the road and near a clump of trees. He gathered some twigs and branches to camouflage it. It would not be perfect, but in the dark it may look like a bush.

Once the suncar was hidden to his satisfaction, the Prince turned around real fast. There was no one there. He almost expected someone to be there, but he was mistaken. He was glad of that.

He took a circuitous route to his tent. He back tracked a few times. He waded through the water in the ravine. He did not want to draw attention to his tent. When he was satisfied with these efforts, he climbed into the tent to attempt to sleep.

With the conversation with Lars, the hiding of the car, and the stealthy return to the tent, it was pretty late. It seemed like the events of the day were ages ago. He shivered as the memory of the warm fire washed over him, but there was nothing other than a damp chill in the air.

The Prince attempted to sleep, but every sound in the night put him on alert. A breeze would become an army sneaking through the woods. Each animal sound was an alert to some strange creature moving in on him. A brief shower sounded like gunfire as it dripped on his tent.

As the hours went past, he just lied there with his muscles tense. He was ready to move at a moments notice. He thought about the euphoria he felt sitting by the fire. He wished he could take that all back. He would trade that feeling for a good nights sleep. Eventually, he drifted off into a shallow dreamless sleep.

The area came alive with noises just as the sun broke above the horizon. A raven sounded like a teenage boy shrieking with joy. The jays were arguing with other birds. A bunch of sparrows twittered and chirped around the wooded area.

A squirrel pealed a pine cone just above the Prince's tent. The pieces rained down upon the fabric of the tent like small explosions. When the Prince left his tent in a rush, the squirrel chattered at him in defiance.

The Prince was exhausted, but he survived the night. He thought that he just might make it to the Pirate Peninsula on this day. It looked like the weather was going to cooperate. While the morning was damp, there were few clouds in the sky. The sun would clear the light fog that surrounded the area.

He broke camp. He packed up his tent, and threw a pine cone at the squirrel. Once again the squirrel chattered in defiance. He gathered up his camping equipment and headed to his suncar. He looked around, but did not see anyone. He also did not see his suncar. What happened to it? He did not need another delay. He did not think he could take another night like the previous one. He needed to get into his suncar and go, but he did not know where it was.

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Reunited...

Chapter Fifty-Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the King of Kaanfed dead, naturally there was a power vacuum. The Princess had to be the person filling the leadership role of the country. As was customary, she claimed the throne of the kingdom in a brief ceremony among the survivors and her military people. The only task left was to inform the remaining people of Kaanfed of their new sovereign.

The first signal the Princess ordered was the raising of the Lakeland flag over the castle. She had not defined a flag for her rule, so she used the old Lakeland flag. They also put flags at various positions around the capitol city. Thus, signalling the Kaanfed Kingdom was no longer in charge of the city.

Also, against the objections of the Princess, the king's body was put on a pike outside of the city's wall. This declared to all those who could see, that the king was indeed dead. Thus, by tradition, the killer could claim the throne. This was a clear indication that a new sovereign was in charge. The Princess thought it was disrespectful, but she understood this was the best way to demonstrate that the king was in fact dead.

The Kaanfed army had gathered their forces and marched towards the waiting Lakeland army at the capitol city. They noticed their king hanging on the pike. The Kaanfed generals were enraged, and attempted to retake the city. However, the city's defenses were quite formidable when fully in use. The army quickly lost its motivation, and gave up after a short attempt.

To the Princess, the victory over Kaanfed seemed too easy. After two minor battles -- skirmishes really -- the Kaanfed Kingdom became part of Lakeland. At the insistence of the Princess, the two armies were joined. Her generals wanted to put the Kaanfed army up front to serve as cannon fodder. However, to improve the morale of the defeated army, she insisted that they were treated like everyone else. She also gave a speech to all of the troops to gear them up for fighting the Kingdom of Nunu.

"Soldiers of the army of Lakeland," she began. "Battles are a messy business. However, everyone here has fought bravely for their country."

There was a big cheer urged on by the generals of Lakeland.

"Good soldiers -- like you -- know how to follow orders. Some of you followed the orders of your now dead king. His orders were to attack the Kingdom of Lakeland while it appeared to be weak. Those orders cost him his life. This is why you now serve at my bequest."

There was another cheer from the crowd.

"Everyone here will be treated the same. Those are my orders!"

The crowd cheered despite the attempts to quell them by the generals.

"While you fight under the banner of Lakeland, we are all one people. When this is all over, you will be free to return to your homes wherever they may be. Nothing will change in your lives -- except the ruler. You will be free to live as you had before."

The assembled armies cheered again.

"We now have to fight a common enemy of both peoples. For many surrounding kingdoms, there has been an uneasy truce with Nunu. Now is the time to make up for the ills they have perpetrated on our kingdoms. We now march north to Nunu!!!"

A large cheer arose from the crowd. The Princess walked off her platform, and began walking out of the city. The army followed her in a big disordered mob. The soldiers wanted to be close to the Princess. She was surrounded by a disordered group as she walked. The military discipline was secondary to getting close to the Princess.

Some of the generals were concerned for the 15 year old princess, but those concerns were unfounded. The soldiers did not wish to harm her, they just wanted to be close. Perhaps they would even get to have a conversation. That was their primary goal. Thus, the unruliness was between soldiers and not between the soldiers and the Princess.

While this was going on, the generals organized the retinue. They got a report of all of the soldiers from their commanders. When the information was all at hand, the generals, commanders, and soldiers were organized into Lakeland companies, squads, etc.

There were very few bridges over the river that served as the northern border of the Kaanfed Capitol. Thus, it was a day's march south and east just to get across it. It was by design, and it was effective for the King of Kaanfed.

Once the Lakeland combined army crossed the river, they headed north and east towards the Kingdom of Nunu and its capitol. The Princess and her generals expected heavy fighting soon after they headed north. However, the scouts continually reported that there was no one in the area.

During their march, the Princess attempted to speak to as many of the soldiers as she could. She found it was very good for morale. In fact, she felt that is was good for her morale as much as the soldiers. She marveled that these people were willing to die for her. At least, they were at this point. If the conditions became brutal, that may all change.

This march was different than the previous one. The army had to be on full alert at all times. While there were still scouts set to search in front of the army, they were there to be an early warning system. They no longer wanted to avoid conflict. They would fight everyone that was willing. They may also recruit anyone willing to join them on their battle against Nunu.

Report after report came back from the scouts. It appeared to be clear all the way to their goal. At this point, the Princess ordered more scouts. She felt that perhaps the Nunu army would attempt to outflank them. Thus, the scouts spread in all directions looking for signs of an opposing army. The reports continued to come back with no sitings.

As they went along, the Princess got more concerned about an assault. With a report of no sitings, the scouts were ordered to get some rest, and return to the field as soon as they were able. Nonetheless, the days passed with no sign of any Nunu troops. The local townspeople were questions, but they too did not report any strangers. The march was eerily uneventful. It made everyone uneasy.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William stood there wondering what happened to his suncar. It had been a long night, and he was ready to make it to the Pirate Peninsula. However, if he had to walk, then it would take days. He felt he did not have days to spare. With a war raging, he did not want to be in either Lakeland or Kaanfed.

Panic was about to set in when he remembered. He moved his suncar and hid it a bit farther down the road. He walked a bit down the road and there it was. He gave a big sigh of relief. He took the camouflage off of his vehicle. The relief continued to wash over him as he got in and moved it closer to his camp. He loaded up his gear, and just like that he was on the road. He was so anxious to get on the road, that he did not even think about eating.

He drove for a few hours as fast as his suncar could go. He did not think he would need to save any batteries. He just wanted to go. It was more important to get into the peninsula than it was to save any power for later. After a while, he got very hungry. He was getting close, but he had to stop.

There was a small outcrop of buildings beside the road, and he pulled next to them. He drove the suncar behind one of the buildings to make it less visible from the road. The events of the last few nights made him jumpy, and he was not going to take any chances. He hoped to not be there long, but he wanted to be as safe as possible.

Next to one of the building, he sat on the ground. He leaned against the wall and ate what was supposed to be a light meal. However, he was quite hungry and he kept eating. The stress had gotten to him, and he was happy for any bit of relief. He enjoyed the little peace and quiet in his little spot. Thus, he sat for longer than he wanted. In fact, he eventually dozed off.

The Prince awoke with a start. He did not know where he was. Slowly it all came back to him. He was by the side of the road. He was sitting on the ground leaning against a building. He shook off the sleepy feeling and looked at the sky. He was only out for a short time -- perhaps as long as an hour.

He gathered his things and got back into the suncar. He tried to pull onto the road, but the road was crowded. There were people streaming out of Lakeland and Kaanfed toward the peninsula. He eventually made his way onto the crowded roadway.

It somewhat made him feel safer to be in such a crowd. He thought he was going to make it. All of those safe feelings left him when the traffic began to slow. Eventually, all the traffic stopped. He noticed that the opposite lane had a trickle of cars going in the other direction. He considered joining them, but he really needed to keep going. Thus, he stayed with the rest of the drivers.

Slowly -- very slowly -- the line of cars inched along. Hours passed. He ate another meal in his car. More hours passed. He cursed himself for stopping and eating the meal beside the road. Moreover, he cursed himself for the nap. He wondered why all these terrible things kept happening to him. He watched as the trickle of cars going the other way became a more steady stream.

He wondered what was happening. Why was traffic stopped? Was there a big accident up ahead? Was he running into some sort of military action? Again, he hated himself for his meal and nap. He was ahead of all of these cars at one point. He was driving along fine. If only he had... he thought to himself. It was all too late. He would find out soon enough. He began to resign himself to whatever fate was ahead.

Eventually, he saw the roadblock. A couple of guards interrogated each driver. Sometimes they searched the car. Sometimes the driver was assaulted. Most drivers were instructed to turn around and head back. Only a few were allowed through into the peninsula. He did not want this.

It was almost dark when he reached the roadblock.

"Name?" the guard asked.

"My name is Pri -- er -- William Thorbjornson."

"What is your business here?"

"Vacation."

"Pardon?"

"I have been planning this trip for quite some time."

"You are telling me that you are vacationing here -- at a time like this?"

"Like I said, I have been planning this for quite some time."

"Residency?"

"What?"

"What is your place of residency?"

"I am from Calmondak."

"Where in Calmondak?"

"I live in the capitol city."

"Friend of the king's I suspect."

"As a matter of fact..."

"Turn around and go back."

"But..."

"Listen, I have been at this all day. Do you think I enjoy this?"

"Well -- no."

"Then turn around and go back."

"I have to get in."

"You have to?"

"It is not often that your vacation destination is closed when you get there."

"Do you think this is some sort of theme park?"

"No."

"Then turn around and go back."

"But I have incurred great hardship just getting here."

"I am not in the mood to hear your sob story."

"Please. What can I do to get in."

"You will not find it any better inside than it is here."

"Can I be the judge of that?"

"Please. Just turn around and go back."

"I have money."

"Your Calmondak money is no good here."

"I have gold."

"Gold?"

"Naturally. I always carry a small amount when traveling."

"How small?"

"I have a couple of ounces. My pile is worth quite a bit in your native currency."

"I am telling you that you do not want to go past here."

"I will give you all of it."

"Please turn around."

"If you treat me right, I can get you some more."

"I am trying to treat you right."

"What?"

"The governor was killed. We are in civil war."

"But I thought...."

"Were you trying to get away from the Lakeland and Kaanfed war?"

"I guess you could say that."

"Well -- it is over. You can safely return to your home."

"What?"

"The King of Kaanfed was killed today. It is only a matter of time."

"How do you know this?"

"We have a formidable news gathering service -- um -- we did until the governor was killed."

"So, you are turning away all comers."

"Except our own citizens."

"Will you let me in?"

"Is there is no way for me to change your mind?"

"I really do not have anywhere else to go."

"Then you may enter, but please do not cause trouble."

"Me? Never!"

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina's army continued to march towards the capitol of the Kingdom of Nunu. There were occasional skirmishes, but the main Nunu force was nowhere to be found. Hence, the Lakeland army continued their march. However, they were really uneasy about the situation.

Scouts continued to fan out in every direction. The generals continued to worry about being surrounded. Thus, they had many soldiers looking on the roads in front of them, behind them, and in every direction. They did not want to assume that the entire Nunu army would be waiting for them at the capitol. Nonetheless, the closer they got to that city, the more apparent it became that this was the situation.

Nunu was the weakest of the allied kingdoms. Traditionally, they had more trouble with internal strife than with anything else. Thus, they could never garner a strong army. Their armies were generally split in two and fought each other. The surrounding kingdoms were fine with this situation. Kaanfed and the Maritime Kingdoms enjoyed the buffer as long as the internal strife did not spill into their own kingdoms.

Therefore, it became more and more apparent that the King of Nunu pulled all of his troops back in an effort to protect him. This was a common occurrence with the Nunu forces. The Lakeland generals became more confident of this with each report from the scouts. It appeared that the Lakeland forces would have to siege the capitol city. The Lakeland army would not have to meet Nunu on some field of battle, and this suited them fine.

After weeks of marching, they made it to the capitol city. They continued to scout around for any encampments of soldiers. They wanted to be sure they would not be outflanked. As they approached the city, it was clear that it was bustling with soldiers. The generals gave the order to the Lakeland army to keep their distance. They did not want to get too close to the city's defenses. It would not do to slowly lose soldiers. At least, they did not want this until they were ready.

The capitol city was ancient. Legend has it, which the king fully supported, that the city's inhabitants used to hunt the leviathans of the sea. The town prospered on such hunts. Thus, the people claimed to be descended from great hunters and warriors. There was a history of a great seafaring prowess. The generals informed the Princess that even if this legend was true, Nunu had long abandoned such practices. The Princess and the generals believed that the sea would not pose a great threat to the Lakeland forces.

Nonetheless, if the Nunu citizens could get supplies from the sea, the siege would be a long one. The Lakeland army closed off all overland supply lines into the city. This was the first step in the siege. There would be no supplies entering the city by the roads. Those citizens and soldiers in the city would have to survive on any rations that were gathered before the Lakeland army arrived.

Once the guard was set for watching the roads, the construction of siege equipment began. Once again, if it were not necessary, the Lakeland army would not use gunpowder. Those watching the roads would be free to use any weapon at their disposal. However, there would be a limited supply of gunpowder. Thus, other weapons would be used to push the siege.

The Princess told her generals to start the gunpowder manufacture process as soon as feasible. If the siege took a long time, they would need it. If it were a short siege, then they could use the new supply of gunpowder against the Maritime Kingdom. Hence, some of the soldiers were sent on gathering the supplies for gunpowder manufacture.

The first weapons constructed were the trebuchets. These could throw items into the town square. Further, they could be set well outside the range of the city's small arms fire. The arrows and bullets were very inaccurate at that range. It was unknown what type of defenses the city would use. However, the trebuchet was an effective weapon of terror and could be constructed on the spot. Hence, after a few days Lakeland had a few of these weapons hurling items into the city. They tossed rocks and bales of dry grass which had been set ablaze.

No one would know if these items did any damage until after the Lakeland army entered the city. However, the generals assured the Princess that these weapons would frighten the city's inhabitants. Further, if the siege drug on, these weapons could be used to toss gunpowder bombs. Thus, these trebuchets would be a very effective long range weapon no matter the circumstance.

The Princess ordered the scouts to bring back reports of items that could be thrown. Thus, the collection of projectiles began in earnest. Rocks, logs, grass, and other items could be tossed into the town square. If the siege worked as planned, the city would surrender with little bloodshed. The citizens would give up when they realized there was little their army could do against these types of attacks. Further, as the food dwindled, the townspeople would get restless.

The Princess believed that Lakeland had plenty of time to press the siege. From every indication, the entire Nunu army was in the city. Thus, the supplies of the city would be stretched even further. Hence, it should not be too long for unrest to build in the city. However, the Lakeland soldiers were kept busy collecting items. There were also drills and scouting to be done. The watch on the road was also important. Thus, the Lakeland army settled into a routine of sorts.

This all came to an end when one of the scouts returned with a report of a large army marching from the north. It appeared that the Maritime Kingdom was going to come to the aid of the besieged Nunu people. Time which was in such abundance a few days before, suddenly grew short.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The peninsula had changed greatly since Prince William had been there last. It had only been a few weeks, but unrest can change things quickly. It seemed to him that there were riots and lots of looting. The cities he drove through were in great disarray. However, he could go nowhere else in Morica, so he had to find a place to stay.

Although the Prince thought the place was chaotic when he was last here, it seemed that it was much worse now. The governor's assassination appeared to turn the people into a raving mob. The Prince wondered who was behind it and why. He thought in passing that it was his chance for a kingdom. He tried to suppress that thought.

He headed for the capitol. He thought he would stay in the same room he had when he was working on his father's release from prison. The people who ran the place knew him, so they may be willing to rent him a room. Otherwise, he would have to find some other place, and that could be risky.

After spending another night camping, he was ready to sleep in a bed. He would easily make it to the capitol in his suncar as long as the roads were clear. The thought of being in the capitol in the midst of all of the intrigue brought the thought of kingdom back into his head. Nonetheless, he had to be cautious. He was a stranger in this land. The roadblock warned him of the dangers within the borders.

It was late morning when he arrived in the capitol. It had definitely been a war zone. The destruction was massive. The road was still passable, but there was debris everywhere. The Prince continued to drive cautiously. Winding his way around the wreckage on the road, he made it to the capitol building. It was demolished. The prison that held his father, was a pile of rubble. That filled him with dread.

He drove the short distance to the hotel that he had stayed. Remarkably, it was still standing. He drove up to it and parked. He cautiously entered the hotel. There was no one there. He looked around and called out, but there was no answer. He waited around for a few minutes, but no one came. He continued to look around for a brief time, but the hotel did not appear to be staffed.

There were options. He could try somewhere else. He could camp out again. However, since he was there, the Prince decided to try his old room. He walked up the stairs. He tried the elevator, but he noticed there was no power in the building. He walked down the hall the room he stayed in for several weeks. He recognized the hallway and walked cautiously along in semi-darkness. He found his door and knocked.

There was no reply so he tried the door -- it was unlocked. He thought what harm could it do? Therefore, he walked in and locked the door behind him. He felt that the bed being made was a good sign the room was empty. However, it was just a guess. After all, they had a housekeeping service when he stayed there. They made the bed when he was away.

He plopped on the bed and gave out a heavy sigh. Gunfire outside awoke him from his revelry. He was not as far from the violence as he thought. Several other thoughts raced through his head. However, he felt somewhat safe in his room. It was locked, it was a few floors up, and no one knew he was there. It was a feeling he had not had for several months. He was not a cog in the turnings of this state.

He listened for more gunfire, but he heard nothing. As he listened, he fell asleep. It was a fitful and restful sleep. It was another thing he had not felt for quite some time. He felt refreshed when he awoke from his short nap. It was time to find some food. It was around lunch time. He thought about dipping into his supplies, but then he thought he would have a look around. Thus, he would wander around and look for someplace to eat. He could also discover what was happening around the capitol.

He messed up the bed as a sort of signal to himself. If it was as he left it, then he would feel better about it being empty. If it were made, then he would worry about the situation a bit more.

He left the room and began spiraling away from the hotel. He left his car where he parked it, and simply walked around getting farther and farther from the hotel. Eventually, he ended up at the only open place he could find. It was a bar a few blocks away from both the hotel and the capitol building.

He asked the bartender if they served food.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"I am just a bit hungry," replied the Prince. "If you offered some sort of sandwich or something...."

"If you got money -- we got food," she replied with as surly a voice as she could muster.

"What kind of money do you accept?"

"What kind do you have?"

"I do not have any local currency, but I have some Lakeland coins."

"The local currency -- as you call it -- is worthless. How much Lakeland money do you have?"

"I have enough for a sandwich and a drink."

"We probably could get a ham and cheese back there..."

"A what?"

"Ham and cheese..."

"What is ham?"

"You have never had ham? Well, mister sit back there...

"William."

"Well -- William -- You are in for a treat."

"Very well."

"What would you like to wash that down?"

"What do you recommend?"

"Well -- seeing as you have never had ham -- how about a beer?"

"A beer would be good."

"You have heard of beer -- but not ham?"

"I am not from around here."

"Really? I would have never guessed. How did you get passed the boarder guards?"

"My natural charm..."

"Hah! We'll get right on that sandwich."

The bartender poured the Prince a beer. It was a dark bitter drink. It was not like the week watery stuff that was brewed at the castle. However, he enjoyed it. He loosened up a bit more and flirted more intently with the bartender. After several minutes she brought him his sandwich. It was just like the bacon sandwich he had back home. He wondered what other differences there were in the language.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

With the Maritime Kingdom's army marching towards them, Princess Angelina's forces gathered together. The generals determined the best location to engage the incoming army. The incoming army was not completely unexpected, so the Princess's army was quickly in fighting order.

The Princess and her generals decided to abandon the siege of the city, and pull all of their forces south of the Nunu capitol city. In this way, they would not have to worry about the Nunu forces flanking them. While this would allow the Nunu army and the Maritime army to join forces, at least the Lakeland army would have a place to retreat. Further, they could find out what the Maritime Kingdom's plans were.

The Princess watched from a safe distance as the Maritime forces marched unaccosted into the Nunu's fortified capitol city. The Princess felt that it was fortunate that both armies were now within the city's fortifications. The Princess gave the order for the Lakeland army to close off all of the exits. In this way, they trapped both armies inside the city. The Lakeland forces returned to their siege of the city.

In an effort to escape the city, the armies within the city tested the strength of the Lakeland resolve. Fighting broke out at the entrances to the city. However, these entrances were choke points, and few soldiers could engage each other in combat. With the Maritime kingdom new to the surroundings, they did not fully utilize the Nunu defenses. Thus, the Lakeland forces did well in enclosing them in the city.

The trebuchets resumed their assault on the city's interior. The Lakeland forces continued to leave the walls untouched. The Princess had several soldiers watching to make sure no one climbed over the walls. They wanted to trap the armies inside rather than engage them on the field. With even more individuals inside the city, the resources would not last very long.

The bodies of Nunu, Maritime, and Lakeland forces began to clog the entry ways. Eventually, the communication between the Nunu and Maritime forces allowed a greater use of the city's defenses. Thus, the tide turned in their favor. However, the Lakeland forces used the corpses to further clog the entryway as they backed away. The engagement between the two forces became even more limited.

Gunfire erupted from defensive holes in the walls. The Maritime army shot their guns from the walls to further drive the Lakeland forces away from the entrance. The Lakeland army was forced into using its turtle shell type defense shield. It was a heavy steal roof that took 14 soldiers to move. It pushed the bullets aside, but was quite unwieldy. The Lakeland forces put several of these at the entrances to shield several hundred soldiers. These fortifications supported enough soldiers to keep the entry blockades in place.

The fighting became even more intensified. While the Maritime army was not used to the surroundings, they were quite well drilled. They continued to fight against the Lakeland forces. The entrances became slick and red with blood. However, the Nunu and Maritime armies were trapped inside the city. Nothing they did broke them free from the Lakeland forces.

Princess Angelina went to the entries to cheer on the soldiers. This was unheard of in Lakeland history. The generals attempted to prevent her from going, but she wanted to personally urge the fighting. With each visit, the soldiers pushed harder. The Maritime soldiers took the brunt of the surges as they piled up in front of the entry gates.

The Lakeland soldiers stacked each enemy corpse in the way. If the Maritime or Nunu soldiers wanted better access for fighting, they had to put the bodies inside the city walls. This would also work to the advantage of the Lakeland army when they began to rot. The situation was working in Lakeland's favor in most regards. The Princess urged the men on to continue to press the advantage.

A Maritime soldier noticed the Princess and formed a plan. In her finery, she was quite out of place. Thus, he knew she must be important. Therefore, he had soldiers target her. The gunfire became less random and more directed. The Princess felt the danger. However, instead of shrinking for the danger, she urged her soldiers even more. They stepped up to protect her. The battle grew greatly in intensity. The soldiers in the city fell with more regularity.

The trebuchets also increased their fire. The flaming bales became more effective. Those at the gate were able to direct the fire a little bit more. Thus, several interior buildings were set ablaze. They were quickly extinguished, but precious water was used. If the trapped armies were unable to break free, their resources would be quickly diminished.

It was just about dusk when the Nunu and Maritime armies retreated. The roar of battle suddenly became silent. An eerie silence fell over the entry gates. The Princess urged caution. The lull in violence could make the soldiers drop their guards. The Princess stated that is how tragedy strikes. Her army kept a careful watch.

Suddenly a shot rang out, and the Princess fell. Chaos ensued. The Lakeland troops stormed into the city. They lost all discipline. The Nunu and Maritime soldiers were overwhelmed by the siege. The Lakeland troops slaughtered anyone they came across. The sudden surge caught everyone off guard, and just as quickly as it started it ended. Thousands of dead soldiers littered the court yard. Few of them were from Lakeland. The Maritime and Nunu army quickly surrendered. They were not prepared for such a strong push at that time.

The King of Nunu was captured, and brought before the generals. The fight for Nunu was over, but the cost was high. So many dead soldiers scattered around the city. The Maritime generals knew they made a mistake in entering the city, and it cost them deeply.

However, what happened to the Princess. All of the soldiers asked when the fighting ended. In the confusion, a group of soldiers carried the Princess to the hospital. The uninjured were barred from entering the hospital. Thus, few knew what had happened to the Princess. Further, the doctors were too busy with the wounded to give any updates. Thus, everyone sat around waiting for news. It would have to wait until morning.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William spent several weeks exploring the capitol city of the Pirate Peninsula. He frequented the bar he found on the first day. He became friendly with the bartender, and she became friendly with him. It seemed that all of the strife raging around the world and the city avoided him.

The hotel seemed abandoned. He stayed at the same room every night. At no time was their anyone at the desk. In fact, he never ran into another person at the hotel. He felt that it was an odd situation, but these were odd times. For the first time in a long time, he enjoy himself. However, he knew that would not last forever.

He was enjoying some time with his favorite bartender when a familiar face walked into the bar. One of the men that accompanied King Thorbjorn in prison entered the establishment. An eerie quiet spread through the room. Several people ran out the back door. The bartender froze. She stared at the man in fear.

His father's man scanned the place for threats. He looked around but did not pause on any one person. He did not appear to see the Prince, or at least recognize him. The tension did not leave the room as he walked out. A few moments later, he returned with a group of six men. The man at the center was another one of his father's men. They sat at a table in the corner, but every person faced outward.

One of the men waved at the bartender and she warily walked over to the table. Someone made a joke, probably at her expense, and they all laughed. The bartender did not even smirk. They each placed their orders and she rushed back to fill them. The men sat and talked as their orders were filled.

A small amount of calm re-emerged in the place. The bartender did not relax, but the patrons began to return to normal. However, without being able to converse with the bartender, the Prince decided to leave. Before he left, he heard, "Prince William!"

He thought about ignoring it. He thought he would just walk out as if he did not hear. However, as he opened the door he saw another familiar face guarding a fleet of vehicles. Hence, he decided to look at who called him.

"Oh!" the Prince said with a bit of mock surprise. "It's you!"

"You are alive! What do you know!" shouted one of the men.

"Come join us," insisted another.

"Well, I..." began the Prince.

"I insist," stated the leader of the group.

With that, the Prince sat with the men. The bartender gasped in horror when she noticed her friend sitting with these men. The Prince knew that he and the bartender could never return to the way it was. His time enjoying her company was over. With the friendly talk and the smiles, she would never trust him again. The Prince felt a little sad about that.

The men detailed the events of the weeks after he left. They talked about the riots and the fighting. They told the stories of a large force that came to the prison to break their comrades out. This is how they got out and the prison was destroyed. There were stories of fights and the grab for power.

While the assassination of the governor was well planned, the succession was not. The man who planned the thing assumed that he would be instilled in power. That assumption cost him his life. This resulted in near complete chaos. Many people wanted to have the power of the state. Each faction faced off against each other. There were regular battles. The civil war had begun.

The men stated that they had allied with Scott Richards. He was one of the local aristocrats and had gathered a formidable army. They believed that he had the best chance at coalescing power. That is why they joined him. They told stories of their battles. They bragged of their glorious victories. They came back to the capitol to relax for a while. That is what they were doing there at the bar.

Just like that, Prince William was caught up in the activities of the peninsula. He talked about his adventures. He spoke of the wars raging on in and around Lakeland. He talked about the treachery of Prince Bjorn and the assassination of the King. He talked about how Princess Angelina had been swept into power over all of Lakeland after the civil war and death of Bjorn.

After all that his people had gone through, he felt it better to leave than to make a claim to the throne. After all, he was in the wilderness making his way back when the war ended. No one knew he was alive. He made it sound like he entered the peninsula for exile rather than facing off with the people of Lakeland. The men seemed to buy it.

The men drank a few more drinks and laughed heartily. The bartender was haggard by the time they left. They did not pay for a single thing. They just enjoyed themselves and walked out. She worked hard, but got nothing in return except harassment.

They all walked over to the hotel where the Prince had been staying. They opened a locked drawer and each got a room key. The Prince asked for the key to his room. He now understood things better. These men took whatever they wanted. Who knows what happened to those who disobeyed. They likely died. It was also most probably a terrible death. He was mostly sure that is what happened innkeeper.

These men were much more dangerous than they were under King Thorbjorn. They had become ruthless and cruel. Nevertheless, he was now a part of their group. They had an allegiance to him, and they would likely treat him with respect. However, that did not make them any less dangerous. He did not know if they would turn on him. He hoped he would live long enough to find out how loyal they were to the family.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina woke up in a strange bed. She wondered what had happened. The last thing she remembered was a sharp pain in left her shoulder. She relived that pain when she touched that shoulder. She realized that it was now bandaged, and her left arm was immobilized.

Her wrappings made it difficult to get out of the bed, but she tried. A nurse noticed her struggles and came over to put her back in bed. It was a good thing because when the Princess stood -- from her perspective -- the room spun in circles. The nurse caught her before she hit the floor.

"Rest easy," he said.

"Where -- am -- I?" the Princess said weakly.

"You are safe," the nurse replied.

"It did not ask how I was," returned the Princess more strongly. "I asked where I was!"

"Sorry sire!" he replied with a bow. "You are in the castle of Nunu."

"What am I doing here?"

"Lakeland forces have captured the city. The doctors thought you would be more comfortable here."

"How long have I been out?"

"According to your chart," he replied looking at the clipboard.

"Just tell me."

"Approximately 16 hours sire."

"Where are the other injured?"

"They are in the castle's infirmary."

"Take me to them."

"But..."

"That was not a request."

"I do not..."

The nurse ran out of the room before he finished the sentence. A short while later another person entered. He was the doctor.

"Sire," the doctor began. "You need your rest."

"I will rest with the rest of the soldiers."

"But sire."

"That was not a request."

"Yes sire."

The doctor left with a bow. A few moments later he brought back the nurse and an orderly. The orderly was pushing a gurney. The pair carefully slid the Princess onto the gurney. The sides were raised, and the orderly pushed her out of the room.

She was pushed into a room crowded with injured soldiers. They cheered as she entered and waved. There was barely any room for her gurney, but a small space was made for her. The orderly raised her head a bit, and she could look out over the room.

"Thank you," she said to the orderly.

He did not say anything, but gave a bow.

"Well done!" the Princess said to the room.

More cheers went out. She looked around the room at the injured troops. Their faces brightened up by her being there. This also brightened her up.

"I must say, you are the best fighting force in the world!"

The cheers were much louder now. There were several bright smiles. Even some of the gravely injured soldiers beamed considerably.

"The doctor said we must rest. While I take no orders from anyone..."

The room erupted interrupting her comment. The Princess waited for the patients to quiet before she continued.

"As I was saying, I take no orders from anyone, but I have taken the doctors request under advisement. I recommend you do the same."

"Yes Sire!" the injured soldiers replied.

With that, the Princess closed her eyes and managed to sleep some more. A few hours later she was awakened by someone moving her bed.

"What are you doing?" she asked the orderly.

"I was told to move you to more private quarters."

"You will do no such thing!"

"But..."

"You tell the person who told you to move me to come see me immediately."

"Yes Sire!" the orderly replied with a bow.

He left her in the middle of the aisle and immediately ran off. A short while later, he returned with a somewhat official looking gentleman. She did not know the man, but gave him a very stern look. The man almost collapsed into his bow.

"Who are you?" the Princess asked.

"I was the king's man for many years," the man replied while looking at the floor. "I run this castle."

"What is it with everyone suddenly? I did not ask you what you did, I asked you who you were."

"My name is Jonathan Helmsley sire."

"Mr. Helmsley, on whose authority did you use to move me from this room?"

"Ummmmm," he began meekly. "I just thought that you would be more comfortable..."

"Stop!" the Princess interrupted. "Did you not understand my question?"

"Yes sire."

"What was it?"

"You asked whose authority I used."

"And?"

"It was my own sire, but ..."

"So you were used your own authority over my own wishes."

"It is just..."

"Mr. Helmsley you worked for the previous King, and you likely had a fair bit of power in running this castle. Is that correct?"

"Yes sire."

"Those days are over."

"As you wish sire."

"If there is space in this place where individuals can be made more comfortable, then these men here deserve it more than I. Thus, what you will do is prepare those places for as many people as can be fitted comfortably. Do you understand?"

"Yes sire."

"Anything else?"

"No sire."

"Push me back to my spot, and then you may go."

"Yes sire."

Jonathan did as he was told and pushed the Princess back to her spot. He gave a deep bow, and left the room. She got out of her bed, and went around to the men. She wanted to personally thank each of them. However, she was quite weak. She had to fight the tunnel vision as she first got out of bed.

She stood with her eyes closed for a few moments and then went to talk to the person in the cot next to her. She asked about his injuries, where he was from, and got to know him a little bit. Then she thanked him for what he had done for her. She then got up and talked to the next man.

A nurse thought about approaching her and advising her to go back to bed. However, instead she went to find the doctor. The doctor came in with a stern look on his face. The Princess return the look, and the doctor backed down.

"Sire please!" the doctor begged.

"I am tired of resting," the Princess explained.

"But sire..."

"These men fought for me," the Princess interrupted. "The least I can do is talk to them. It is not too strenuous; I promise."

"I will get you a wheeled chair."

"Very good."

The doctor returned, with an office-type chair with wheels. It was not what she expected, but it was well received. With her arm the way it was, she would not be able to get around on the chair she was expecting. The Princess thanked him for his kindness and ingenuity.

She was talking to one of the men on her chair when one of her generals entered.

"Sire," he said as he got on one knee.

"Yes?" the Princess answered.

"I have grave news."

"What is it?"

"An army is marching from the west."

"What!" she exclaimed. "Whose army?"

"We believe it is your father's."

"Why would my father be marching here?"

"Apparently he had a treaty with the Kingdom of Nunu."

"He did?"

"It is our belief that he is coming here because we attacked the Kingdom."

"So, you think there may be another battle here."

"Yes sire."

"Prepare the men!"

"Yes sire."

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Six

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William stayed with his father's men during their time at the capitol. They were on a break from the peninsula's civil war. He tried not to participate in their bullying, but he dared not chastise them for it. After all, they were ruthless and cruel, but they had no reason to remain loyal to the former throne of Lakeland. For some reason, he felt a connection with the men.

Nonetheless, it was apparent to him that these men were after their own power. They had a form of respect. It was out of fear, but no one questioned their power. Whatever these men wanted, they took. No one even questioned it. This amazed the Prince. These men had garnered a reputation in a very short time. Further, they took advantage of this fear.

After a few weeks, the men stated that they had to get back to business. The war was not over, there was simply an armistice. The negotiation period was over, and the fighting may return. They asked the Prince to join them. He declined the generous offer. When they insisted, he joined them.

The Prince left his aircar behind, and traveled in one of the other vehicles. He felt that traveling with them made more sense than attempting to follow. Further, he did not think he could escape them with his own vehicle. So, he just went along for the ride.

As the men traveled south, the damage from the war was much more apparent. There were still corpses lying out in the open. Further, there were bodies hung on poles as a warning to others. There was much cruelty in this war, and the Prince was stepping right into the middle of it.

After several hours of driving, the convoy of aircars pulled up to a compound. The guard waved them right through. They traveled to the center of the compound where an open spot for them was waiting. It was near a large makeshift building with a few guards protecting the entrance.

The group walked right past the guard and broke into a negotiation session. The reaction in the room was the same as in the bar. The tension level rose to a great extent. Even the leaders of the opposing factions feared these men.

"Times up!" the leader of Prince William's group said.

There were lots of But and we need more time, but the smart ones scrambled out of the room. The Prince was not sure what they were going to do. They did not have any firing weapons to just open fire on the negotiating parties. However, he noticed that they had not even drawn what weapons they had. Instead, the men started a big brawl in the midst of this negotiation room. Apparently, they did not want to kill the men they were fighting. At least, not kill them quickly. They wanted to take their time. That is why they did not simply open fire with some sort of gun.

A few men eventually drew knives. However, more regularly they used their bare hands. These men were outnumbered by 5 to 1, but the individuals at this meeting were not match for these seasoned fighting men. Further, the men did not discriminate. They were fighting everyone in the room. If an individual was in the room before they got there, they were a target. When the fighting was over, they outright killed 3 men and left dozens more injured.

When the fighting was finished, the leader spoke to the remaining conscious people.

"Diplomats!" he shouted. "This is Prince William Thorbjornson! He is your new king! If you have any questions, we will be happy to hear them."

This announcement stunned Prince William. Just like everyone, he feared these men. He did not expect them to instill him in power. He thought they would take it for themselves. He was not sure how far their loyalty went. It turned out they were still loyal, and still considered him worthy of rule. It was quite a surprise.

The thought of having his own kingdom left the Prince reeling. It is what he fantasized about for years. Now he was close to it becoming a reality. The only drawback was he would be beholding to these brutes. He was not sure whether he could live with the situation -- both literally and figuratively.

He stood there gazing off into space as the men continued to negotiate with the surviving individuals in the room. Eventually, they all agreed to pass along the proposal. They would inform their constituents of the situation. However, the Prince did not hear any of the conversations. He was living in his own world.

When the room cleared out, he was still standing there looking off. One of the men shook him out of his daydream. He asked what happened, and the men replied. The peninsula civil war may be over, but the factions would have to accept the offer before them. The men explained that it was not likely that they would. Hence, there would likely be more fighting. It seem to the Prince that this was what these men hoped.

This revelation knocked some sense into him. He thought they wished to instill him as sovereign. However, what they really wanted was to present an unacceptable offer to all parties. In this way, the war would continue. Reality smacked the Prince in the face again. He asked what happens next.

They would give the factions a couple of days to decide. If they rejected the offer, the war would continue. If they accepted, they did not know what would happen. They had never thought that they would accept the Prince as their king. Thus, they did not know what to expect should the parties accept the offer and end the war.

The men patted the Prince on the back and escorted him to a nearby pub. In this way, it was no different here than it was in the capitol. The men did what they wanted, and no one asked questions. The Prince began to get used to the situation. He had a group of very powerful men who surrounded him. They seemed to respect him. At the very least, they accepted his company.

He loosened up and began acting more regal. This delighted the group. He did not know anyone there, so he did not feel bad about abusing them. He made orders, and expected them to be fulfilled without question. Soon, he was drunk with his new found power. However, like everything in his life, it could not last forever.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Seven

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina got dressed despite the doctor's objections. She knew that it was important for her to meet with her father personally. If there was a treaty, it was voided with the abdication of the king of Nunu. At least, she thought it would be. However, it was difficult to know with her father. She would have to find out, and that is why she was getting dressed.

The Princess believed in doing everything herself. She had always thought that. She wanted to be self sufficient. Thus, she never had an attendant. She never had any help with her day to day things -- like getting dressed. When she attempted to get dressed with one arm, she wished she had help. She felt that an assistant would be helpful now.

Nonetheless, the hospital was staffed by nothing but men. Therefore, she was on her own. Not to mention the doctor refused to offer anyone for assistance. Since she was disobeying doctor's orders, she would continue to do it by herself. She believed that the doctor did not think she could do it.

While getting dressed, the pain occasionally became so sharp that she nearly passed out. Every aspect of her wardrobe was a challenge. She appreciated a time when she had two hands more than ever. The simple act of getting dressed had become quite a chore.

Eventually, she was dressed. She looked a bit ragged, but that was somewhat what she wanted. Her father would perhaps show a little pity with his daughter in such distress. Several members of the hospital staff attempted to straighten this or adjust that, but she scared them off with a look.

Outside the city, both sides worked together to erect a tent. The Princess dispatched some messengers to invite King Jonathan for a parlay. The messengers soon returned with the acceptance of the offer. Thus, the Princess would meet face to face with her father. She would get the entire story from him. She would find out why he marched into Lakeland and then into Nunu.

The effort of getting dressed and walking through the city took quite a bit out of the Princess. Therefore, when she sat in the tent she struggled to stay conscious. She knew she had time, so she reclined a bit to rest. She did not anticipate it, but she fell asleep. After a while, she awoke with a start. She did not know how long she was out, but it was well past midday. Where was the king? He was due hours ago. While it was not unlike him to keep a person waiting in this situation, he would have been there by now.

She got upset with her father stormed out of the tent. The King's retinue was standing on guard in front of the tent with her own retinue. She knew that the King had arrived. He was likely not very far off.

The Princess walked up to one of her father's trusted men, and demanded to know where King Jonathan was. He bowed and told her that the King was in the city. She thought about storming after him, but she thought better of it. She invited the man into the parlay tent. He did as requested.

"Duane McGuinness? Is that right?" she asked as she offered him a seat.

"Yes ma'am," he replied with a bow as he took the seat.

"Mr. McGuinness why are you here?"

"Because you made the invitation."

"Very good sir. What I want to know is why you are here in Nunu?"

"Because the King ordered it."

"Mr. McGuinness, I appreciate you answering my questions. There has been a bit too little of that going on lately. However, I do not appreciate you answering them with as little information as required. Be that as it may, I will ask again. What I wish to know is why the King marched upon Nunu."

"Yes Sire. It is because the King is now sovereign over this kingdom."

"Why does he feel this?"

"By treaty."

"Go on..."

"There is a treaty which states that if the former king of Nunu and his heirs were dethroned, King Jonathan would then be instilled upon the throne."

"And the King thinks this is valid."

"Yes ma'am."

"If I say that the former King was not dethroned -- but abdicated -- what then?"

"You will have to discuss that with the King."

"The King is not here. You are. Do you not speak for the King?"

"Yes sire. However, he would want to speak for himself on this matter."

"As I said before, the King is not here. What is your opinion now?"

"I believe that the former King of Nunu abdicated under duress. Thus, the treaty stands."

"Very good. Who was the treaty with?"

"The former King."

"Thus, if he no longer is around, would that nullify the treaty?"

"I see. In actuality, the treaty was negotiated for the throne of Nunu. Since the throne still exists, the treaty is still intact."

"However, it is not intact. The kingdom formerly known as Nunu no longer exists. It is now a part of Lakeland."

"It was only through aggression that this came to be."

"Ah! But it was not out of aggression but self-defense. The Kingdom on Nunu attacked Lakeland. It was the throne's own actions that led to the downfall of the sovereignty of Nunu."

"Princess, you should really be discussing this with your father."

"I would, but he is not here."

"He wished to let you sleep."

"He could wish all he wants, but I was not consulted. Thus, his representatives must speak for him until he arrives."

"But Mistress..."

"Very well, you may go fetch. However, what you will do is tell him that his treaty is no longer valid, and he should return to his Kingdom."

"I -- yes ma'am."

"Correct, that was not a request. You may go inform him."

Duane McGuinness arose and walked out of the tent. The Princess let out a smile. She liked this Mr. McGuinness. He answered questions and followed orders. She did not have to give them twice. He was a good man. She hoped the situation she put him in would not be too difficult on him.

She listened and there was a small commotion outside. She distinctly heard his voice bark out orders. She sat back and waited. She wondered how her father would respond to the order she gave. King Jonathan was not used to taking orders. However, she knew him well. She knew she had to negotiate from a point of strength, or he would walk all over her.

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Eight

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William and his father's men were sitting in an establishment. A messenger rushed into the place as they were reveling in their power. The messenger was out of breath and took a few moments to recover. Then to everyone's shock, he announced that the warlords had accepted their offer. They agreed to accept Prince William as their new sovereign.

The Prince let out an excited yell. Someone came over to investigate, and the Prince ordered another round for the group. He could not remember ever hearing such good news. However, before the drinks were delivered, his father's men had stormed out of the bar. At first, he had thoughts about what he was going to do. Instead, he just sat there with a funny grin on his face. He just soaked in the current state and began to daydream.

He was happy that his father's men had gone. He could just sit there in peace. There were several fresh drinks there for him to enjoy. He sat there in a daze.

He was hoping that his father's men would become his men. They installed him as sovereign, and they would want places in his rule. He smiled. That smile soon faded as he realized they were too independent. They were much too unpredictable to retain. Something would have to be done with them. He was aroused from his daydreams by one of the men.

He did not want to go with the man. The man insisted, but the Prince still refused. The man left and returned with a few more men, and the Prince decided to join them. He got used to ordering people around, but those he ordered around were cowed by the actions of these thugs. He had no authority of his father's men, and they knew it.

Thus, he walked with them reluctantly. He walking was such a problem, that the men surrounded him to keep him from wandering. They practically dragged the Prince into the parlay tent. The emissaries from the warring factions were there. There were even groups that were not represented in the last round of negotiations.

One of the representatives stepped forward and spoke.

"It has been greatly discussed, and we accept your offer."

"Were there any dissenting voices?" asked the head of the Prince's group.

"We are all tired of the fighting. Thus, we have voted for peace unanimously."

"Is this what you all want?" said the King's man to the rest of the crowd.

"Yes," replied the representative and the rest nodded.

"You want this pipsqueak -- this pretender to royalty -- this poor excuse of a man for your sovereign?"

"Yes," they continued to respond.

"All of you want this?"

The crowd nodded. They all agreed with the terms. The Prince meekly smiled at the result and shrugged. An elbow to the ribs wiped the smile off his face.

"Are you sure this is what you want?" the Prince's group leader asked.

"It is time for peace."

The King Thorbjorn's men tried to begin a fight but the emissaries were prepared. Before the meeting, they had prepared an escape. They fled before a fight could get going. They pulled out in a big truck as the men chased them. It was all but official that Prince William was indeed the sovereign of the Pirate Peninsula.

The Prince was once again lost in daydreams. He thought about what to name his new kingdom. So many thoughts went through his head. It was not how he imagined, but his dreams had come true. He just stood their with his thoughts as his father's men came back into the tent.

One of the group of thugs threw the Prince onto the ground. He put his foot on his head, and asked, "What are were going to do now?"

"You said they would never accept this offer," stated another to the leader.

"How are we going to continue on if the war is over?" asked a third.

"We should kill the Prince now. That would void their deal," stated the man with his foot on the Prince.

"They seem to be united. If they got together against us..." another added.

"Our allies have deserted us. It is best to kill the Prince and regroup," the man standing on the Prince said.

"Boss? You have been pretty quiet. What do you think?" one of the men asked.

"Boss?" added the man with his foot on the Prince.

One of the men walked over to the leader, and looked at him. He appeared to be leaning casually against one of the tent poles. He was oddly quiet and they all wondered what was happening. What was he doing? The man looked at the leader closely. He reached out to touch the boss when a bullet struck him in the shoulder knocking him over.

"Get down!" he shouted.

Bullets began flying through the tent. The leader of the group was finally knocked over. He had been dead for a few moments, but was held erect by the pole. All of the men dove to the ground. They could hear the bullets whizzing through the tent. Occasionally, one would strike a pole or a table or some other object. Debris would fly around at the strike.

Just as suddenly as it had all began, all was quiet. The men looked around, but they did not dare stand up. They tried to get to the door, but the gunfire resumed when they got close. They looked for other ways out. One of the men pulled out his knife, and said he would cut through the tent and make an exit. That is when they noticed the strange smell.

Before they could do anything, the men noticed that the tent had erupted in flames. One man overturned some tables to use as cover. The men still alive piled behind the makeshift barricade. The Prince stayed in his spot on the ground. He knew he was not welcome in that group.

After a few moments, he tent was gone. There were a couple dozen men with automatic weapons surrounding the smoldering ruin. The men continued to hide in their barricade of tables. However, the bullets went right through the tables. They provided no protection at all. An expanding pool of blood surrounded the table splinters when they stopped firing.

The truck with the emissaries returned to check on the situation. Prince William was still alive but he was coughing horribly. The chief spokesman walked up to him and said, "What do you have to say now -- king?"

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Reunited...

Chapter Sixty-Nine

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina sat in the tent waiting for her father. She knew he would be angry, so she thought of what she would do and say when he arrived. She thought she knew what was going on, but sometimes it was difficult to tell with her father. After several minutes, the King stormed into the tent.

"Listen young lady!" he shouted while pointing his finger at her.

"King Jonathan," she interrupted as she rose and bowed. "Please have a seat."

"I came here to negotiate in good faith. What do you do? Do you call me? Do you send for me? No! you speak to one of my men!"

"You were not present sire, so protocol dictates..."

"Protocol? Young lady, I should take you over my knee."

"That would be seen as an act of war," the Princess replied calmly. "As an act of war, you would likely not leave this tent alive."

"Why -- I -- could..." he said as he attempted to gain control. He finally took his seat and added, "Yes -- sire."

"That is better. I informed your man of the situation. I assume he is a good man and that he passed that information on to you. I hope you are satisfactorily informed of the situation."

"Yes," King Jonathan replied curtly.

"Good. How do you respond?"

"Thank you. As you know, there was an agreement between the Calmondak Kingdom and the Nunu Kingdom."

"However," interupted the Princess. "I contend that the treaty was rendered moot when Nunu attacked Lakeland and was soundly defeated."

"The treaty does not mention anything about under what circumstance the king was removed from power."

"I would also contend that Nunu ceased to exist when the former king surrendered to Lakeland forces. Nunu then became a part of the Kingdom of Lakeland and this would also negate the treaty."

"I disagree."

"Which is why we arranged this meeting rather than going to war with you."

"Listen young lady, I am your father, and you will listen."

"I am the sovereign ruler over Lakeland, and you will listen. While I do have familial ties with you, I must do what is best for my subjects. Allowing you to claim land that my people fought for is something we will not tolerate. Simply put, it will not be passed on to you in any fashion. We will not let your treaty stand."

"Are you willing to go to war over it?"

"Sire, we already have."

"Would you be willing to fight a much superior fighting force for it?"

"If you wish us to show our strength against you, we would be willing to oblige. However, we do have pressing matters that we would rather attend."

"Like what?"

"The Maritime Kingdom was also a part of this alliance. We are still at war with them."

"Oh yes. I would also like to state that we have a similar treaty with their king."

"You will take their land should their current king fall?"

"Yes."

"And the former Kingdom of Kaanfed?"

"Their king was far less willing to participate."

"When we are victorious over the Maritime Kingdom, will we need to have a similar discussion?"

"I suspect the results of this discussion will suffice."

"Then I will restate our position. You have no claim here. Go home."

"I disagree."

"Let me put it another way. If you control Nunu and Maritime from your position, your kingdom will not be contiguous. This will cause issues for you. Whereas, it would be easily absorbed into Lakeland."

"Our plan was for it to retain some of its sovereignty and instill a loyal subject as its new king."

"Perhaps one of your children?"

"You know, that would be you or Prince James."

"Hence, would it not be logical to renounce your claim and let us take control?"

"Calmondak cannot lose face."

"Stop being silly father."

"In what way am I being silly?"

"You have made your show of force. Anything further will reflect poorly upon you."

"How do you mean?"

"If you attack -- me -- you will appear to be a bully. You would be beating up your own daughter -- a little girl."

"If I do not attack, I will appear weak."

"You know that is not true."

"Do I?"

"Yes. You know that no one will look down upon you for not attacking your daughter's forces."

"Is that right?"

"Of course. Everyone knows that this show of force is just a demonstration. It was nothing more than an excuse to see me and tell me how proud of me you are."

"Everyone knows that do they?"

"Of course they do. No one will think any less of you if you pack up and go home."

"Now you are being silly."

"Perhaps a bit."

"I am proud of you."

"I know father."

"We really do have a claim."

"You can explain it as I have to anyone who doubts you."

"What about your war with the Maritime Kingdom?"

"We gave them a sound thrashing here. They should be greatly weakened. However, if we do not continue soon, they will have time to regroup."

"We could aid you in the fight."

"Your people would be fighting for Lakeland and get little in return."

"They would follow you."

"Also, this may void your treaty with them."

"That is the spirit!"

"I will call my generals and we will start a plan."

"Agreed!"

The Princess now knew that her father's march was just a pretext to join her forces. In that way, the King of the Maritime Kingdom would not automatically assume that the Calmondak forces were joining the Lakeland forces. Thus, he would have less time to adjust his strategy. King Jonathan knew that with the treaty for both kingdoms, the Maritime Kingdom would not suspect if he marched to make some sort of claim. Thus, the show of force was for them.

With the agreement between King Jonathan and Princess Angelina complete, the Calmondak forces would join the fight against the Maritime Kingdom. The Princess insisted that the Calmondak forces be the reserves for the Lakeland troops.

With the armies ready to go, all of the equipment was packed up for the journey north. The Lakeland army was once again on the march.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventy

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William was filled with regret. Over the last several weeks, he had behaved horribly. He let the power go to his head, and he was now paying for it. He wanted to respond to the emissaries, but his lungs were too filled with smoke. All he could do was cough. However, he was resigned to his fate.

The Prince was surprised that the people gathered did not kill him immediately. He expected to be shot on site. However, his captors treated him much better than his father's men would have treated anyone in the same situation. He was grateful for that. He decided to express his gratitude as soon as he could clear his lungs.

His captors checked him for weapons and led him into the back of their truck. He did not know where they were taking him, but he was happy for every moment that he was still alive. His coughing began to subside as the truck moved along. He tried to breath in as much air as he could. Soon, he was able to talk.

He began to utter some sounds, but he was instantly silenced by a rifle butt to the ribs. He began coughing again, but it was short lived. He bowed low to the soldier who struck him. He decided that he would not utter any additional sounds.

Eventually, the truck stopped. The Prince was pushed out of the truck and he saw the many orderly rows of tents. There were thousands of tents organized neatly along a central road. The tents fanned out along secondary roads. The Prince assumed the flags denoted the allegiance of the tent owner. It was quite the impressive arrangement of temporary living quarters.

The Prince did not have much time to admire the camp as he was rushed into a large central tent. The man in charge of him pushed him along to where he was wanted. He did not have a chance to look around much. He wanted to marvel in the scenes of it all, but he simply was not allowed.

Once in the tent, he noticed a chair next to a wall on a small raised platform. He was pushed to that spot and roughly placed into the chair. They attached his hands to it, but the Prince had no intention of struggling. He felt sorry for his actions, and he was ready to face the consequences. Nonetheless, he was shackled to his seat.

The Prince realized that he was in a makeshift courtroom. There was a large raised table to his right. To his left were a pair of tables placed upon the floor with a few chairs behind them. Straight out was a seating area. It appeared that his trial would begin soon, as people began streaming into the tent. The rows of seating began to fill up. However, the tables remained empty.

He recognized a few people in the crowd. They shouted and pointed at him. He was now thoroughly ashamed of his actions. He decided to not look at the crowd any longer. He simply put his head down and closed his eyes.

The roar of the crowd steadily rose. It appeared that there would be plenty of people to watch this spectacle. The crowd noise was almost enough to urge him to look up, but he decided it was best that he did not. He just sat there waiting. With the events of the last several days, he was very tired, but his anxiousness kept him awake.

After quite a long wait, the Prince heard a gavel and the room quieted to a soft murmur. The Prince continued to hang his head. He heard someone say all rise, and he attempted to comply. However, his shackles prevented him from standing. Instead he lifted his head to see the judge sitting at the raised table on his right.

"Be seated," the judge announced and everyone took a seat. "Who do we have here?"

"We are not sure your honor," came a reply from the Prince's left. "Please state your name for the record."

The Prince looked around, and decided that they were waiting for him. He was not sure what he was going to say.

After a brief bit of coughing, the Prince stated, "My name is William Thorbjornson."

"Is that all?" asked an attorney on his left.

"It is all that is relevant," replied the Prince.

"Do you not claim to be the new sovereign over our fair land?"

"Mr. Prosecutor, you are out of order," stated the judge.

"I am sorry your honor," he replied.

"While I appreciate all of your interest in this case," the judge began. "There will be no convictions today. This man has rights -- even if he is not a citizen of your land. He will need representation. We are just giving him a preliminary hearing and nothing more. It is here that we will decide what to do next. I will have not tolerate any outbursts. I will act to remove anyone disrupting this proceedings. Have I made myself clear?"

Above the grumble of the crowd several individuals said Yes, your honor.

"Mr. Thorbjornson," the judge continued. "Do you know why you are here?"

"I believe so," the Prince replied.

"Would you like to elaborate?" asked the judge.

"I am afraid that if I do, those statements would be held against me."

"Fair enough," replied the judge. "Let me describe the particulars. A group of mercenaries were hired by one of the local warlords to facilitate some fighting. These men were fierce warriors, and that warlord soon became powerful. After months of fighting, it was decided by most of the parties involved that the fighting should stop. However, these mercenaries were not convinced. A truce was called, and these men went away. Do you follow so far?"

"Yes your honor," the Prince replied.

"Good. The warring factions came to a settlement, but no one knew how to handle these mercenaries. Upon their return, an envoy explained to these men that the war was over, but the asserted to place you on the throne of a new kingdom. Does this sound familiar to you?"

"Yes your honor."

"Very good. Now, we need to decide if you are a threat to us. That is why you are here. If you wish to explain yourself, we are willing to listen. On the other hand, we can grant you counsel and we can go through a complete jury trial. Nevertheless, everything will be determined today. The people willing, you may survive the day."

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventy-One

By Douglas E. Gogerty

King Jonathan's and Princess Angelina's combined army continued its march north towards the Maritime Kingdom. The Princess would have liked to ride with the men, but her injuries prevented her from doing so. She was forced to sit in one of the protected wagons. Many argued for her to stay with the wounded in the Nunu castle. However, she could not be persuaded to be left behind.

Her father regularly checked in with her, and they had several long conversations. As they traveled, she asked everyone who came to see her for regular updates. Eventually, the scouts would report to the generals and then to her. In this way, she did the best she could to remain involved in the war effort.

After several days march, they entered the Maritime Kingdom. There was no fighting until that time. However, even the fighting in that kingdom was light. The scouts did a good job of preventing any type of ambush. Further, the army was on high alert. At any unusual circumstance, the convoy would stop. Therefore, the march toward the capitol was slow.

From all of the reports, it appeared that the Maritime Kingdom was purposely slowing the progress of the Lakeland and Calmondak forces in order to regroup at the castle. From these early indications, it appeared that another siege would be required to win this war. The Calmondak and Lakeland armies began preparing for such an eventuality.

For weeks, the army continued its slow push towards the capitol. One of the benefits of the slow march was that the Princess had time to recover. She began to ride with the generals by the time they could see the castle complex in the distance. In this way, she had the opportunity to give input on the strategy for the upcoming siege.

As they anticipated, when they got close to the castle, the skirmishes became less prevalent. By this time, the Maritime Kingdom forces would be gathered in the castle. Thus, they would be available to aid in the city in any way necessary. While the skirmishes gave them time to organize, it was time to establish themselves in the city. With the important resources gathered in the city, they could develop a strategy of their own. In addition, they could use the able bodies to collect supplies for the upcoming siege.

However, as the Princess's forces approached the city, they found the gates wide open. The Princess asked for volunteers to enter the city to scout around. Warily, the volunteer scouts entered the city. As they fanned out, they found the streets deserted. Their presents was not opposed in any fashion. Eventually, one of the scouts came to a big tent outside the castle walls.

This scout had found the parlay tent. Inside the tent stood a single messenger. Once he entered, the occupant told him to stay and left. After a short while, he returned with some emissaries of the Kingdom. The emissaries had an official message for the Calmondak and Lakeland armies. The written document asked for a meeting with qualified representatives of the invasion force to arrange a peace settlement. It appeared that the Maritime Kingdom was surrendering without any further fighting.

King Jonathan wanted to send his best men, but the Princess would not hear it. It was her battle and not her father's. She would handle the emissary arrangements. In fact, she insisted that she go herself with a few of her trusted generals. King Jonathan protested loudly, but the Princess would not budge on the issue. The more the King objected; the more she was set on going.

After a lengthy debate, the Princess and 20 men entered the city. All of the accompanying individuals were experienced soldiers. A few of the Princess's generals had diplomatic experience, but only the best fighters among them were asked to join the Princess. The soldiers marched in a box formation around the Princess as they entered the city. They made their way to the parlay tent.

Once again, a sole messenger was in the tent when they arrived. He asked them to wait as he retrieved the emissaries from the Maritime Kingdom. They were surprised that the Princess had come in person. They were even more surprised when she insisted that the King negotiate in person.

The King of the Maritime Kingdom arrived a short while later. He abdicated to the Princess on the spot. Arrangements were made for officially dissolving the Maritime Kingdom and making it part of Lakeland. The Princess sent for her father, and he arrived shortly afterward.

There was a brief discussion on what to do with the former King of the Maritime Kingdom. The Princess felt there were very few choices. She felt that he could not stay in any Lakeland territory. He would be a symbol and could cause problems for her. Even if he did not directly do anything directly, he could cause strife in her kingdom.

One option was to travel overseas. However, there had been so little contact with the countries outside of Morica that no one was sure any civilizations existed on other continents. The former king was not keen on taking this option.

There was the Pirate Peninsula. However, the king had explored this option in the time before the invasion. Several of his scouts returned telling of the civil war raging on down there. Thus, he was not interested in going there.

Thus, the only option left was for him to live under the rule of King Jonathan in Calmondak. In effect, he would be a hostage in King Jonathan's court. However, he would be treated better there than any other place. Thus, he chose that option.

The Princess interrogated the scouts who had recently returned from the peninsula. They told of stories of Prince William's exploits. They described actions that to the Princess seemed out of place. Those actions did not sound like the Prince she knew. However, these scouts also heard of plans that would end the war, but they would not turn out well for the Prince.

The Princess was torn. The stories did not seem right. However, if they were to be believed, Prince William could be in trouble. She decided to skip any ceremony and investigate for herself. She gathered a group to travel overland towards the peninsula. This group would be reinforcements as she planned to travel by sea. While much more dangerous, the seafaring Maritime Kingdom could get her there faster if the Prince was indeed in trouble. She wanted to take that risk.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventy-Two

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince William sat there shackled to a chair. The citizens of the peninsula surrounded him. On the spot, he had to decide which course of action to take. He could discuss his actions with an attorney, or he could tell his story in open court. He desperately wanted to sleep on it, but that was not an option. Everyone in the room was waiting for his decision, so he had to make his choice.

"War," the Prince began "is a terrible thing. It forces people from their homes. Many of these people have no where to go. They become refugees. Of that group of refugees, some of us have no where to turn. For various reasons, we are not welcome anywhere. What are we to do?"

"I must assume that you have made your choice," interrupted the judge.

"I have your honor," replied the Prince. "You see, I could not stay in my country because of war. A civil war raged in my country of Lakeland, and it ended the lives of my family. I was seen as a threat to the new monarchy, which was victorious. Hence, I could not stay in Lakeland. Further, the three formerly neutral countries decided to attack Lakeland. I certainly could not go to any of those. Finally, I could have gone to Calmondak, but I would be a hostage to the king there. Thus, I had to come here."

"You had to attempt to claim the country for yourself?" asked the prosecutor.

"May I finish?" asked the Prince.

"By all means," replied the prosecutor.

"I came here and made my way to the capitol. I did this because I was familiar with the area. I had stayed there while my father was in prison."

"If it please the court," added the prosecutor. "The defendant's father was in prison for crimes against the state. He was fomenting unrest among the people."

"Can I object to that?" Prince William asked the judge.

"On what grounds?" asked the judge.

"My father's deeds were wrong. I fully admit that. However, that does not eliminate a son's duty towards his father. Thus, his actions are not relevant."

"Goes to motive your honor," added the prosecutor.

"Objection sustained."

"Thank you your honor -- I think." The Prince continued, "Since I had no where to go, I went to somewhere familiar -- the capitol. In fact, I stayed at the same hotel and hotel room I had previously used. I visited familiar places."

"If I may interrupt," interrupted the prosecutor. "We have subpoenaed a local server to testify if needed. She can illuminate the actions of Mr. Thorbjornson and associates while at the capitol."

"Noted," the judge responded.

"It was mere coincidence that I eventually ran into the deceased troublemakers," returned the Prince. "I was willing to live out my life in peace and obscurity. I frequented a local establishment, where I can assume the server in question works. Unfortunately, these men decided to also frequent this place."

"For the record, these deceased troublemakers were associates of Mr. Thorbjornson's father."

"Yes," the Prince injected. "I knew the men. However, they were accompanying my father for his misconceived mission. I did not wish to establish any report with them, but they would not let me go without conflict. It was a conflict that would not result well on my behalf."

"It is here that they formed their plot to overthrow the country," added the prosecutor.

"I object your honor! I had no knowledge of their plans."

"Objection sustained. Please continue."

"I was dragged unwillingly here. At every point, I looked for an out, but none came. They wanted me to be there because they had something planned for me."

"Objection your honor. Hearsay!"

"Objection sustained. Please Mr. Thorbjornson, stick to what you know."

"Sorry your honor," replied the Prince. "So, I could not get away, and we came to a parlay tent. I had no idea what we were doing there. None! That is when I found out that they proposed to make me king of this country. I swear it was the first I had heard of it."

"What did you do when you learned of their plans?" asked the prosecutor.

"I stood there with my mouth open. I was shocked."

"And, how did you act during the negotiation phase?" the prosecutor enquired.

"I...," stumbled the Prince. "Ever since I was young, I dreamed of being a king. However, in my own country I was well down on the hierarchy. Thus, my dreams of kingdom were just that -- dreams."

"I ask again," interrupted the prosecutor. "How did you act after learning of your men's plans?"

"I...," stumbled the Prince. "These men were not my men. They were my father's. He recruited them for nefarious deeds. These were bad."

"Fair enough," replied the prosecutor. "How did you act after you heard your father's men's plans?"

"I object," the Prince stated.

"On what grounds?" asked the judge.

"He is leading the witness."

"Yes Mr. Thorbjornson he is," responded the judge. "Please answer his question."

"I behaved abysmally. The power went to my head. I got carried away."

"The prosecution rests!" exclaimed the prosecutor.

"Wait!" yelled the Prince. "I was just a pawn in their game. It is evident in my being here and they being dead. I survived because they refused me the cover that they took. It turned out to be ineffective cover, but they left me out to die."

"Immaterial," responded the prosecutor.

"I admit I made some mistakes!" shouted the Prince. "I let the power corrupt me! I did things I would never have done in any other circumstances! I..."

A silence fell over the courtroom as a shot rang out. The entire room was suddenly mayhem. People were running here and there. Officials were looking from where the shot came. There was a mad scramble everywhere. People pointing and saying it came from here or there. The judge attempted to regain order, but no one heard him pounding his gavel.

The Prince sat slumped down in his chair with a pool of blood growing around him. No one paid any attention to him.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventy-Three

By Douglas E. Gogerty

King Jonathan traveled west with the former king of the Maritime Kingdom. The wars were over. Lakeland was triumphant over the three rebel kingdoms. The King's daughter was responsible for the conquering of all of Morica. Further, she did it with little help from her father. He was proud of his little girl. He had visions of many years of peace.

The news spread fast. While the King still had his scouts in front of his march, they did not report any trouble. There were no ambushes waiting. There were no bandits along the path. The march was not going to be difficult.

In fact, as his army made its way towards home, they were greeted with cheers in the towns in which they passed. Even Lakeland towns cheered for the Calmondak army. This would not have happened in the rule of King Thorbjorn. King Jonathan believed that a new era had come to pass. This filled him with great joy.

If his daughter could unite the people under her rule, Morica could return to prominence on the world stage. Perhaps trade could be reestablished with the other nations. The King could only imagine the great technologies available from other countries. Perhaps his aircars would be a welcome addition to that technology. Thus, the King's thoughts went to wealth. There was money to be made in overseas trade.

The more the Calmondak army marched; the more the army relaxed. Many of the protocols broke down with the precession west. The march home became a great triumph like the very ancient Romans. The group travel became almost a westward moving party. Citizens would join the march for a few days to revel in the victory. The King ignored the breaks in protocol. It would help usher in the new age of cooperation between kingdoms.

At first, the former king and his small entourage were kept from the festivities. After all, he was a hostage of the Calmondak Kingdom. Some in King Jonathan's company did not trust the former king. These voices won out early. There were the only ones not participating in the celebration. However, as the rules relaxed, so did the restrictions on the Maritime Kingdom group.

It started with giving them a few extra rations. Food was being showered on the army, so extra was no hardship. Thus, it was a small favor.

Eventually, the hostages shared in the gifts of the local population. Thus, they would get a small ration of local alcohol to join in the celebration. It was a small gesture to include them. This group felt a little less hostile towards the victors.

As the march progressed, a few were free leave the guarded area with an escort. It was not long before the entire hostage group was escorted out to join in the vast celebrations. King Jonathan thought this would endear the group to his hospitality. Hence, they would be less trouble in the future.

When the army entered Calmondak, the entire entourage including the hostages were fully participating in the festivities. It was difficult to tell who was in fact a hostage. The entirety of the group was celebrating the peace.

No one even thought that anyone could be hostile. It appeared that everyone was enjoying him or herself. After all, it was an unprecedented celebration of peace. An act of violence would upset everything.

Thus, when a subject of the former king of the Maritime Kingdom asked to see King Jonathan, the audience was quickly granted. In fact, he entered the King's tent without being searched. The King greeted the man warmly, and was surprised when he drew a gun. Before King Jonathan could sound an alarm, the gun sounded it for him. The King had four gunshot wounds to his midsection before his assassin was apprehended.

The King was in a large pool of his own blood, and no one could do anything to save him. The field doctors treated him, but the weapon had done too much damage. The King held on for a short time, but his assassin did his job well. King Jonathan died.

In short order, the hostages from the Maritime Kingdom were collected. The king seemed quite surprised at the action of one of his men. He proclaimed his innocence from the plot. However, that was not enough to spare his life or any of the other members of his royal party.

The once reveling party quickly turned somber. A rollicking party turned into a funeral march. The King was placed in a wagon, and he could be viewed in the towns they passed. Just as the news of joy travelled fast, so did the news of sorrow. The parties of peace turned to somber wakes. Everyone mourned the passing of King Jonathan.

Scouts and officials were sent ahead to prepare the funeral. The news arrived at the capitol well before they did. The top officials of King Jonathan's assured Prince James that they would aid in the transition. They had experience running the kingdom, and they would be of great assistance in getting the new king prepared.

Prince James took the news hard. He had a difficult time dealing with the fact that his father was now dead. For many years, he informed his father that he did not wish to be king. He felt the stress acutely, and he felt the pressures of ruling personally. All of this was magnified with the nature of his ascension to the throne.

King Jonathan's men wanted to do the right thing. However, what could they do? What would happen if the Prince stepped down. Who would rule? Would Calmondak could devolve into chaos. Without a willing heir, Calmondak could be heading for civil war. Once the people had hoped for a long peace, but now that peace was threatened. This put even more stress on Prince James.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventy-Four

By Douglas E. Gogerty

The Princess arrived at the Pirate Peninsula with her group of five advisers. It was dawn, and they had little rest. Although she had heard that their war was over, there was no evidence of that when she arrived. For some reason, the country was as chaotic as a country at war.

With the chaos, the Princess considered waiting for her troops. Her five advisers suggested just that. After all, they were all tired. However, with the situation, the Princess knew Prince William was likely in trouble. Thus, she decided not to wait. It is why she took the boat in the first place. She would go searching for the Prince.

She asked about the Prince to anyone who would give her the time. Most people she encountered did not know anything about what had happened to him. The news outlets had been blacked out for weeks. Nonetheless, many of them volunteered to join her. They wished to help in the search, and they feared for her safety in the troubling times.

By the time the Princess reached the Capitol city, her entourage was 10,000 strong. They were not an organized fighting group, but they provided plenty of security for the Princess. Further, the group was large enough for people to take notice.

Some at the Capitol knew that Prince William headed to a parlay location to the south. Thus, the massive group would head in that direction. However, it was late in the day and the Princess and her group needed to rest. They would spend the night.

By morning, the group was 25,000 strong. The five advisers with the Princess began drilling the people who had joined up. They would need provisions to survive with this large group. Thus, the people were divided up into groups with specific duties. Most of the joiners were not suited to fighting, but they could gather supplies. Food and water was a priority.

On their scouting missions, some of the groups would return with supplies and more people. As the Princess traveled, her group continued to grow. Forces in their path south either ran or joined. Thus, with 25,000 support personnel, they began to gather actual fighting people. Soon, they were a formidable fighting force.

The group encountered their first opposition force when they reached the parlay grounds. The Princess's army was too powerful to the fight weary forces they faced. Therefore, the Princess had her first victory in the peninsula. With that victory, emissaries from some of the factions asked for an audience. She granted the request.

The Princess sat at a table surrounded by her five advisers when the emissaries from the peninsula arrived. It was a diverse group. Many age groups were represented as well as racial groups. The Princess did not expect to see any women, but there were females representing some factions. This would not have ever happened in the kingdoms. It made her smile.

That smile soon faded with the groups demanding that she leave. Naturally, she refuse. She explained that she came looking for Prince William Thorbjornson. She further explained that she had not anticipated getting involved in the local situation. The emissaries turned when with the mention of Prince William's name.

"Take me to him!" she demanded.

They led her to a nearby tent. Prince William was still shackled to the chair where he was shot. The pool of blood had begun to congeal and flies were everywhere. The smell brought tears to the Princess's eyes.

"There will be proper death ceremony tonight," she explained.

The emissaries did not know how to respond to her demands other than nodding.

"Once the arrangements have been made," the Princess continued. "Someone will explain to me why the Prince was treated in such a manner."

The group continued to nod.

"Move!" the Princess shouted.

The emissaries from the peninsula scattered. Many were not sure what they were to do, but they scrambled.

The Princess directed members of her entourage to coordinate with the various factions. She picked a spot to build a funerary pyre. She knew that it would be difficult to remove him from his death chair, so she instructed them to bring him as he was. The Prince was seated upon a large stack of wood.

As dusk approached, the Princess gave a speech to the gathered crowd. Few in the gathered people knew the Prince in any significant way. However, her eulogy moved many of the gathered. She managed to get through her statement with only shedding a few tears. She surprised herself that she did not break down completely. At dusk, the fire was lit.

With the passion of her words, more citizens of the peninsula joined her group. In the few days she had spent in the area, she had amassed a huge following. The people were tired of the infighting. They thought the civil war had ended with the death of Prince William. However, the conflict rose again out of the assassination.

With each passing day, the Princess's power grew. The emissaries from the fighting factions did not know what to do. They seemed to only be able to agree when there was a common enemy. In fact, they thought of the Princess's group as a force against their state. However, they could not agree with how to handle it. After all, her followers were their own constituents.

A couple of the factions joined together to ambush her. They were quickly and easily dispatched. It was so weak that the Princess did not even know about the attack. Thus, the factions agreed to surrender to her. In this way, the Princess became the sovereign of yet another part of Morica.

She was too busy grieving for Prince William to mark the surrender. She just sat in a dark tent crying. It was then when a messenger arrived to give her news of her father. She curled into a ball on the floor and wept. There was no joy in this victory.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventy-Five

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Prince James once again awoke. The sun was just peaking over the horizon. He had tossed and turned all night. It was not a fitful rest at all. Things swirled around in his brain, and he just could not stay asleep.

In fact, he had not had a full night of sleep for days. He had only been king of Calmondak for a week, and it was already tearing him apart. He presided over his father's funeral, and that seemed to be the easiest part of his week. He wished they could have waited for Princess Angelina, but they did not know when she would be back. Thus, they proceeded without her. Prince James hated doing that.

The Prince got out of bed and walked to his window. He stared at the rising sun. He briefly admired its beauty, but was soon returned to reality when he heard a light rapping on his door.

"Sire," whispered a voice.

Prince James was not sure he wanted to answer. After a long pause, he replied, "What is it?"

"Did I wake you?" the voice asked.

"I asked what do you want," snapped the Prince. "It does not matter if you awoke me or not."

"Sorry sire," replied the servant with a bow. "There is a breakfast gathering that requires your attendance."

"What is it?"

"Your advisers have been in the process of selecting a -- well -- a -- suitable queen."

The Prince sighed. "And...?"

"They would like you to meet some contenders at breakfast."

"Why?"

"Sire," the servant bowed. "I am just the messenger. I am not savvy to all that goes on at the castle."

"Are you telling me that you do not know why?"

"No! Well -- yes."

"Why did not not just say that?"

"I -- uh -- I -- um -- I -- do not know sire."

"Okay Mr. Messenger. Let us get a few things straight. If you are going to last at your job, you answer my questions directly and honestly. If I ask you what is it? That is to be quickly followed by an answer to that question. Do you understand?"

"I..."

"Do you understand?"

"Yes sire," replied the messenger.

"Secondly, if you do not know the answer to something, you are to reply, I do not know. Do you understand that?"

"Yes sire."

"Only I do not know."

"Yes sire."

"How long do I have to get ready?"

"An hour sire."

"Very good. Now go away and allow me to get ready."

"Yes sire."

The Prince let out another sigh. He looked out the window for a little bit, but had to get ready. His life was filled with had to's. He did not feel he had enough time for all of the want to's. His life had become one obligation after another.

He drug himself away from the window and began the task of getting ready for breakfast. He had to prepare himself for the presentation of the women. It was one of the most tiresome tasks.

When his father was alive, he dated a great deal. It was fun. There were no obligations that went along with the outing. All he had to do was have fun. If he had fun with the person who accompanied him, he would would ask her for another date. Nonetheless, none of the dating led to anything long term. That was fine with the Prince. His father was in good health; therefore, there was no pressure. In this way, the Prince enjoyed the process. Now each meeting with a woman or group of women was loaded with obligation.

Further, each person he met now had royalty on the brain. They all wanted to be queen. Most of the time, it put the women in a bad light. This fact also made the Prince suspicious. In any event, he had to choose someone suitable to rule. He could not just pick someone fun. He could not just pick someone he liked. It was an impossible task.

All of this was compounded by the vetting process. The advisers of the former King put it upon themselves to pick the suitors. These men considered the woman's status, family, and other factors that were important for such a position. Not once did they consider the desires of the Prince. Thus, there was a string of nobles whose only qualifications were the circumstances of their birth.

The Prince dreaded the breakfast, so he took his time getting ready. However, the team of advisers entered his room 15 minutes before the scheduled time. One of them had a clipboard. On it was a list of all the meetings he had. This attendant informed the Prince that the breakfast was possibly the only meal he would have on that day. His schedule was that packed.

The Prince gave a heavy sigh. He wanted to lie on the floor and curl up into a ball. He almost did just that, but the advisers grabbed him by the arm to push him along. However, before he reached the banquet hall, the Prince made a break for it. He broke free from the group and ran. He just ran. At first he did not know where he was going to go. He just ran. The entire complex was connected by a series of tunnels. Thus, he just ran in them.

A few advisers attempted to run after him, but they were in no shape to catch him. They communicated the information to the other staff, and they kept an eye out for the Prince. However, since he was just running, no one knew where he was or where he was going. Hence, they congregated around the common exits. When the Prince finally decided to exit, he left from one of the lesser used doors. It was just close by. Thus, he got away clean.

He remembered his sister running away to the forbidden zone. Thus, he grabbed one of the suncars, and headed there. If his sister could make it, so could he. He had to get away. He had no interest in having every hour of every day planned for him. He decided that he was not ready to be king. Thus, he ran away.

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Reunited...

Chapter Seventy-Six (The End)

By Douglas E. Gogerty

Princess Angelina slept poorly. Despite that, she still did not wish to leave the comfort of the bed she was in. The recent deaths took their toll upon the young woman. She just wanted to lie there and let the world go by. However, she knew that she could not do that. She had responsibilities. She had to pull things together and arise.

Reluctantly, she got out of bed and prepared for the day. When she was clean and dressed, she gathered her advisers around her in a big room. There she arranged a caravan back to Calmondak. She knew she would never be able to make it to her father's funeral, but she had to return home to pay her respects. Further, there were people who wished to return to there homes. With the end of the war, there was still much to do.

The people around her treated her kindly. They all behaved like they were walking on eggshells. She was not sure how she felt about that. Nonetheless, she was effective in getting things done with this arrangement. Further, no one made her upset. They just did as she asked. She really liked that part. No one wanted to upset her. If that was always the case, she would be happy. However, she knew she had to take advantage of it while it lasted.

There was much governing to do. She appointed governors to the various parts of her realm. There was no way she could be involved in the affairs of all of the people under her rule. She needed go-betweens. She appointed various people to arrange governments. She would be the ultimate arbitrator, but these governors had a bit of autonomy. If there were problems in the realms, these appointed governors would be responsible. Further, she could always rearrange the governments later.

After all of that was arranged, she did not want to think of the politics anymore. She would delve into the details when she was ready. She had more pressing things that concerned her. In the past, when she was at this point, there was something to distract her. Now, the wars were all over. It was decision making time. At least, it was close to it. She hoped there would be nothing earth shaking to deal with in the near future.

When the details of running the peninsula, Kaanfed, Nunu, and the Maritime kingdoms were put in place, her convoy left for Calmondak. Some advisers would peel off and look into the affairs of Lakeland and other areas along the way. The remaining small entourage would continue on to Calmondak.

The Princess was looking forward to visiting with her brother, Prince James. They could commiserate. They could tell stories of the past. They could talk about their memories of their father. They could even tell stories of Prince William. This would make her feel much better. In this way, she would honor her father. She would feel that she did all she could to pay her respects. It would ease the guilt she felt for not being there.

Further, he brother would be coronated soon. She could linger in Calmondak until that event. Being with her brother would ease the losses she felt acutely. Even the thought of being in the castle in Calmondak eased her pain. Thus, she looked forward to getting back.

As the caravan continued, she curled into a ball in her wagon. She did not want to think about all of the things that needed to be done. Of course, this is what kept her awake. She was exhausted, but she could not sleep. Thoughts swirled in her brain. All the while she thought what next?

After the long travel to Calmondak she found out the answer to that question. Prince James had disappeared. Calmondak was near chaos. Some thought they should wait for the Prince to return. Some thought they should organize some sort of government without him. The entire country was on the brink of civil war. This is what she arrived to. If it wasn't one thing, it was another. However, when she heard the circumstances, she knew exactly what to do.

She declared that Prince James had abdicated the throne. Thus, as the next in line to inherit the throne, she would step in to rule Calmondak. Surprisingly, no one objected to her declaration. The Princess was royalty. She was in line for the throne. If Prince James did not wish to rule, they would accept her as their ruler. It seemed obvious.

In the turn of events over the last several months, the Princess went from runaway bride to ruler of a diverse set of kingdoms. She went from someone with a slight crush on Prince William to spurning him to mourning his death. She went from hating her father for arranging a marriage she did not want to mourning his loss. She felt she was a different person that ran away to the Forbidden Zone.

Despite all of the adversity, the world was set before her. She had the power to change the world. And, changing it needed. She remembered the internets and the Google. She wanted to implement that kingdom wide. That would make it easier to communicate things.

She would improve the transportation system. The aircars were so much more efficient than the suncars. Transportation in the realm could be greatly improved.

Further, she could improve the lives of women under her rule. Women worked outside of their homes in the peninsula. They were capable of many things. They were not only useful in raising families. She could attempt to make inroads there.

Princess Angelina looked over the list she wanted to accomplish. She could do so much. She could influence so many aspects of people's lives. With all of the power, the things in the realm would change. All of it possible because she reigned over the Reunited States of Morica.

The End

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  • Douglas Gogerty: Thanks for the kind words Kerry. I too am very read more
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