Jarlesburgh, and the Steel Mail

Fiction By Edith // 6/25/2007

Note from Edith: Chapter II will be coming soon ... Unless I go blank o_O Hopefully that won't happen.

CHAPTER I
Perhaps War

The sun set in the sky as the beautiful bright colors cast many shadows on the wonderful old Castle. It was a spring evening, and the birds chirping sounded like music in the air. Inside the Castle, King Lakmir sat on his Throne listening to Sir Henry Jarlesburgh telling his old story of his escape from Ferreton prison, in which all the little mice, servants, and especially the king had probably heard over fifty-three times in the last seventeen years of Jarlesburgh’s “Escaping tale”.
But by the fire, snuggling up together in blankets, with cheese and crust crumbs piled beside them, five little mice children sat, listening intently to Sir Henry’s wonderful and exiting story.
“And then – when the guards noticed my plan…my escape, then and there they ran to me with sharpened spears and axes! But I, Sir Henry Jarlesburgh the Fearless – ran towards them with open arms…they did not expect this to come. Do you know what happened then?” Henry spoke with enthusiasm yet hesitation.
“WHAT??” The children’s eyes widened, showing excitement beneath them.
“…Well, let me…let me remember-now-oh, uh…” Henry paused for a moment, trying not to show his forgetfulness. Finally, he smiled, and said, “Ah – yes. Now I remember. Well, I went to the tallest guard, who had a long spear and a scimitar hanging by his side. He wore amour of great steel, and a golden plate at his chest. So, then, I looked that Ferret in the eyes, the pale balls glaring me back. His look was one of an icy expression; it gave me a chill that ran my brown fur up my neck. I shivered, and suddenly grabbed at my throat; it throbbed and seemed as if it poured a taste of sourness into my body. My stomach churned, as if it twisted into a big knot! But I, Sir Henry Jarlesburgh the Fearless, would NEVER let a brainless ferret like that guard, frighten me nor kill me! So I stood, willing never to give up. If so, I would give up my –”
“Alright–already, Henry! They don’t need to know how you felt and thought every moment of your life.” King Lakmir rolled his eyes and sighed.
“…Right, your Majesty.” Sir Henry blushed, his fur bristling at his neck. “Well, after all the emotional expressions….and all…” Henry paused for a moment, “…I grabbed the guards spear and loosened his grip on it. He struggled to keep his grip, but my paws then were as hard as a rock and as strong as a bears. I now had control – over the spear – at least.
“So I fought, I fought with all my strength left. Sweat poured down from my face, and my breathing got heavier every moment…then, I knew if was over. I fell on my stomach, panting. The other guard, the fatter ferret, walked up to where I lie. He brought his ace up in the air, motioning to stab it in my back. But I turned around so fast, and stood. I held the spear I had above in my paws – my sharp teeth warned them; they were messing with: SIR HENRY JARLESBURGH! High knight of Nilvek, their Majesties highest honor! –” But a slight cough from King Lakmir was all Henry needed to hear, to stop his boasting here-an-there. “Er, after that, I was free – by myself of course.” He chuckled, “I walked down the dusty road that led to my wonderful home; but I was not alone I soon found. Three more ferrets secretly (or so they thought was), followed me. I stopped dead in my tracks. I turned around; my face was as fierce as…” Henry thought for a moment, and then looked at the five children, “…as your Aunt Elssey when you give her a hard time on washing day.” The little mice glanced at each other, looking this-way-and that, and fidgeted uncomfortably.
“Anyway, they got SO frightened they turned and ran, leaving me free and safe.” Henry Jarlesburgh smiled, and clapped his paws together as ending his tale for the night.
“Correct me if I am wrong, but was it not the other way around?” King Lakmir asked, stroking his furry chin. Sir Henry looked up, not quite understanding the kings’ remark. “You ran away from them and the two fe-”
“Esh-sh-sh!” Henry shushed the king, “No need to make fun of a mouse my age – I can’t remember everything, you know.” Henry stood up from the floor and began to huff angrily out the door, pipe in paw, of course.
“Now juuust a minute, mousey!” King Lakmir said, “You don’t leave the King like that.” Jarlesburgh turned around, his pipe in his mouth, but unlit. “And how dare you call me mousey, king!” Henry said, pointing his paws nail at him,
“And how dare you speak to the King that way!” The king rose from his seat, and walked over to Henry, “And if I were a normal, good and strict rat king, you would be thrown out of the Palace for that! But I will not do that, for I know the fate ahead.”
“-Erm, come on dearies, I think it is way, way…past your bedtime” Aunt Elssey came into the room, aware of King Lakmir and Sir Jarlesburgh’s loud discussion.

Once the maid and mice children had been out of the room, King Lakmir calmed down, seated himself and spoke. Now, really, Henry. I wanted you here for a reason, not to knock heads with you.”
“And what reason might that be, your Majesty?” Henry spoke in a sour-sweet tone, but inside he was willing to accept the Kings silent apology.
“Matters are worse now, Henry, and I’m sure you have heard things coming our way that are not pleasant at all.” The King sat back in his wooden Throne and sighed, “A whole army of fifteen-thousand ferrets, rats, wolves, cats, and all of the enemies wildest creatures lead by Cailer Zegamlad. You know who he is, and that is why I want to speak with you.” Henry did not reply. Cailer Zegamlad was the captain, commander, and the beginning of the whole enemy’s army. “So I believe you might know more about him then we do.”
“I believe I do…and don’t.” Henry answered. “He may have imprisoned me, Sire, but I… I do not have the memory to…”
King Lakmir interrupted, softly speaking. “Henry Jarlesburgh, you know of war and the enemy better than anyone in this entire kingdom, myself included. Your memory will not fail you.”
“Cailer Zegamlad is an evil man, as you already know. His beliefs and view on things are so…so…” He stuttered
“Different?”
“Terrifyingly, yes.”
“And what about his armies? Yes, yes, I know, this was what – fifteen, sixteen, almost seventeen years ago? Bah! He probably hasn’t changed much, except for his grey hair now white, most likely.”
“His armies were always large, I am sure one would assume. They were, in fact, alarmingly large…”
“Well he has obviously lost some during these years, no one lasts forever. I would presume that he does not have many now after all these years of peace.”
“We have been at peace for five years, Sire, but I will warn you, Cailer is not a man to be trifled with – nor is he a man to change his mind or his plans so easily. He is planning something, and that is for certain.”
“Do you really think so?” King Lakmir took a deep breath and bowed his head in thought. “It would seem to me that by now war would not be in anyone’s mind at the moment. Why war!? Yes, yes, we are a few pennies short than we used to be during war because of prizes, but look here! What has that got to bother us when we have a whole family once more?”
“Quite true, Sire, quite true.”
“Do you really believe Cailer would have held a grudge against Plyoath for this long?”
“That I do not know for sure, but I know that he does not easily give up. I do think that he has something planned; otherwise we would have been bothered by him years ago! Why else do you think he declared peace among the mice and ferrets?”
“Unless he finally realized what’s good for him.”
“I doubt that, your highness.” Henry chuckled.
“Ah! Well,” The King leaned back in his throne and sighed. “We shall soon find out, shall we not?”
“I honestly do not know. I think we should prepare.”
“Oh of course, of course, but how can we prepare, Henry, tell me? Do we know what this Cailer Zegamlad wants from us? Do we know what he has planned for Plyoath? Do we know why he even declared peace? Why he ‘surrendered’? Do we know the amount of ferrets and cats and wolves and snakes he has? Do we know what weapons he has completed? Do we know the nature of his army? They may be loyal, but loyal to him until death itself? Do we know his weak spot – his family, his wealth, or is he just a wild beast with no feelings? Well if we do prepare and sharpen weapons, rebuild them, grab other young male animals from the villages, guard every road and hill in this land – after all that – then what? When are they coming? What do they think of us? Do they want bloodshed or Plyoath? These are all questions we must consider, Henry! You must tell us about Cailer! You knew him for years and years – you battled against him, as have I, but you have had time to examine his character, personality, the environment – Yiardan itself!”
Henry sighed. Perhaps the king was right, as always. But he had to give it much thought on this matter. Battle was a dangerous thing, and the two countries – Plyoath and Yiardan – were at war, it was dangerous business, even for an old mouse such as Henry, if he should make a mistake on the details of war. “My king, I am afraid I embarrass you, for my memory has failed me, and the one who once used to be your best warrior, is now an old and grey memory-loosing mouse.”
“My dear friend,” King Lakmir gave a slight chuckle, “in my palace there is no such thing as a grey-haired memory-loosing warrior.”
“There was no such thing as a grey-haired memory-losing warrior. Now there is, Sire. You’ve got to face it. I am one of them.”
“You are a warrior, Henry. You are a warrior in King Lakmir’s army, and you are a warrior for me – but not only for me, Henry, for when you are a warrior for me you are a warrior for your country.” King Lakmir smiled at his old friend who stood like a statue at the king’s feet, his position and expressions when speaking about such important business was always the same, and never changed even throughout the forty years serving for king and country. King Lakmir heaved another sigh and tapped his fingers against the armrest. “Ah, now then, hand me that pipe over there, if you please.”

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