Arriving just outside Castle Nostrove, Jonathon Travance thanks Gideon and turns himself over to the Castle Guards. He is escorted inside and given a small comfortable room to await his audience with King Aleric. At sunset, two guards bring Jonathon before the King. Prompted by the guards, he kneels and waits to be addressed. Aleric turns his eyes to Travance, showing a slight surprise at the youthfulness of the man before him. His Majesty quickly recovers and begins to speak.
“Travance, you may recall being given a sizable domain, as well as a noble title as reward for saving my sister’s life. You could have asked for anything and you chose the wilds beyond the rift and the right to tame it in my father’s name.” The King pauses, “Perhaps your choice was brave; perhaps it was foolish; still this land thrives. In fact, it is now the richest of my Baronies. Its wealth cannot be credited to you since you abandoned it before the town prospered. For fifteen years, there was no reference to you, no dispatch from you; it was as if you were gone from the world completely. Now you presume to return to this Barony to reclaim it with no communication to the crown. I demand you answer for your ill treatment of the Royal Family who held you so dear. Explain your actions.”
Travance looks up at the King, and around at the crowd of nobles, guards and the Princess. His eyes linger for a moment on the Her Highness then turn back to the King. “I shall do as you command, my King, just as I returned swiftly when you beckoned. However, it would be far better if we spoke privately. There are matters which are sensitive, and should be for your ears first so that you may decide with whom they should be shared.” The crowd bursts into murmurs of objection to the request. The King silences them with a raised hand.
The King is not amused. “Travance, do not force me to turn this public inquiry into a trial.”
Travance’s voice changes somewhat as he speaks, though with subtlety, “Everyone can agree that some matters should be heard by the king first, and then we can return this to a public meeting.” The room whispers words of agreement; again the King silences them with a raised hand. He looks back to Travance, curious why the man’s face seems suddenly flush. Perhaps he believes the need for secrecy is paramount.
“Very well, since matters in your former lands are often dire, you may address me in my small chambers.” The King rises and the entire chamber kneels. He confidently moves to his small chambers surrounded by an honor guard. Two more guards lead Jonathon to the chamber several paces behind His Majesty. After the doors to the small chambers close, the rest of the crowd rises and disperses, all except one. The Princess waits, looking at her hands and touching her face. She appears sad and nervous.
In the small chambers the King dispenses with pomp and formality as he dismisses his honor guard. In private, he seems relaxed. “Travance, give me a reason to forgive you for your actions. My father, my sister, and I held you in such high esteem. Your deeds make me think we do not have that respect in return. There is a deeper story here.”
Jonathon thinks for a moment, and then relays his tale for the most part. He omits the names of Royce and Reginald Mardux; but admits it was not mere bandits that kidnapped the Princess. Instead, it was the actions of men who staged the kidnapping so one could rescue her and win her hand in marriage. He tells the king about the Demon Xualla, and his recurring part in everything that has happened. He tells about Uton Alexander creating the undead creature that attacked him, causing a strange demonic disease. He reveals that he was secretly located in a place where time passed so slowly that fifteen years appeared to be no more than three months for him. He speaks of charging Klarington with finding a cure. Jonathon discloses how he learned, after leaving that place that Klarington was killed by one of the members of the town as he slept. He relays his request for the help of those who lived in the Barony that was named for him. He speaks of how they worked so hard to find the creature to kill it. Finally, he tells of the people working miracles to cure this long lost Baron of the sickness that would end his life.
The King listens closely, and at the end asks him pointedly, “Are you leaving anything out, anything important?”
Jonathon nodded, “Of course, but I will make most of that known to you in time. Those details change none of the situations that caused my need to leave, nor my sudden return.”
The King thinks for a while, and eventually nods. “Jonathon, there is much that happens on your side of the rift, and there is much need for men of determination and strength. I feel now, as I did in my younger years, that you have nearly an excess of both. I will forgive your transgressions, as they were because of a near lethal illness that required swift and unusual actions. I will also make good on the offer of my father; which has been taken from you by circumstances of which you had no control. My Father was wrong in giving you such an open agreement, though it turned out well enough for the kingdom. Today, I will offer you two choices. The first is to return to your lands as Vice-Roy of all Human Lands across the rift in order to bring Valaria back into the fold of the kingdom. The other is take the hand of my sister, become consort of the Princess, and remain with us in the Capital where I need men of strength and determination.”
Jonathon is immobilized by the choice. “My Liege, you give me a choice between duty to the world, and …” Jonathon pauses for a moment, “May I have until the morning to inform you of my decision?”
King Aleric is not pleased, “House Nostrov is not meant to be kept waiting.”
Jonathon grimaces a bit at the irony, and then speaks as he did to the crowd earlier, “I do not mean to keep House Nostrov waiting. I may be able to give you your answer by midnight, if I have some time alone to think.”
King Aleric nods, “I had hoped you would be swifter in your choice. If the matter comes up, I will tell my sister that I have not posed the choice to you, yet. I am determining whether I believe your story or not. The morning will be fine.”
With three taps of his scepter, the guards enter the room and escort Jonathon to a guest room. He takes time to ready himself for what he is about to do, with some Sleepless Jade Potion in his flask, Jonathon simply ceases to be in his room.
* * * * *
Knocking sounds on a wooden door; Royce Mardux opens it. On the other side is the imposing figure of Jonathon Travance.
“Royce, I believe you had asked a favor of me?”
Royce’s eyes narrow slightly; he contemplates the statement for a moment and then asks, “Will you do it?”
“Without your help, I could not be here; but first, I want a promise.”
Royce, still blocking the door to his home says, “I’m listening.”
“Not you or your son, or your grandson, or your grandson’s son will attempt to regain the throne by any means but noble acts.”
Royce dismisses the comment, “I can only promise my own actions.”
“I can make sure that their promise is linked to their gift.”
Royce still looks skeptical, but nods, “I don’t understand you, or your power, but…” Royce backs into the room slightly, “Rex, come.” Rex enters the room from a hiding place to stand by his father. “This is the man who killed your uncle. Yet, I helped save his life. He is going to protect you from the demons that haunt our family. In exchange, you have to promise that you and your line will not attempt to regain the throne by any means that are not noble. Will you promise that?”
Rex looks to his father for hidden clues. Is there something he should be doing? His father seems genuine. Rex turns to Jonathon, “I agree.”
Jonathon looks deep into Rex’s eyes, “Your family has asked for something similar before that will make this easier.”
Jonathon becomes woozy for a bit, takes a long draw from his flask, looks at Royce and says, “I hope this eases some of the pain. You will be pleased to know that, in the end, your brother was cleansed too. Unfortunately, he had passed too long ago to revive.”
Royce just holds his son, and nods as Jonathon leaves.
* * * * *
In the County of Sapphires, at the bottom of the Amethyst Tower, lies a dark and dreary cellar that has been long removed from the world. Rows upon rows of various chests sit upon a seemingly endless line of shelves. Small candles are lit here and there. The occasional torch flickers, perched upon the purple stonewalls. The light casts a dreary picture, showing all the chests and shelves covered in thick dust and blankets of cobwebs. A single hooded figure walks the hall. It carries a lantern that glows red as light shines through a ruby glass casing. The figure pauses for a moment, startled at some noise. Turning around in a flash, the figure faces a man: Jonathan Travance.
Removing his hood, the man speaks in a nervous and startled tone. “No one is supposed to be down here! This is a restricted area! How did you get here?”
“How is not important. I am here, and so are you. Tell me Daransus, have you ever heard the phrase, The Age of Heroes?”
The ruby lantern of lore keeping, shedding its crimson light, prevents Jonathan from seeing the man’s skin turn white. How does this man know his name? What does he know of the Age of Heroes? There is no protocol for this situation. It is impossible for this man to be here because this place does not exist on the world. This is a pocket dimension that has been removed from reality.
Jonathan allows Daransus a moment before continuing “Some of this will need to be returned to where it came from…”
“You cannot!” Daransus blurts out.
“I must” says Jonathan calmly. “The world teeters on the brink of destruction. If the inhabitants are to survive, they will need some of the power you stole from them…”
“You cannot!” Daransus pleads this time. “There is a reason this lore was taken from the world.” Daransus hears a click and a creek. One of the chests nearby is opened! As he turns toward it he sees sheets of dusty parchment fly out of the chest and float down to the ground, disappearing one by one, just before touching the floor…
As he turns back, he sees determination in Jonathan’s eyes “I know you don’t understand and I know you don’t agree; but this has to happen. I am sorry, Daransus, you may not want to witness this...”
Daransus closes his eyes to the countless sounds of clicking and creaking chests…
* * * * *
Jonathon is deep in the woods, seemingly far from civilization. He kneels by a grave, weeping softly for a man he never met. He forms a small Pegasus out of psionic energy and places it on the ground before the unmarked stone. As his fingers brush against the grave, Jonathan understands what moves were made and why. More importantly, he understands what will take place as a result.
“Thank you” he whispers.
* * * * *
In the morning Jonathon wakes, exhausted. He quickly washes and readies himself. He informs the guards that he will meet with the King at his pleasure. Once before the King, Jonathon straightens up tall, “I have made my decision . . .