Subject: Cinderfella 2: Chapter 14 The Creid Story: Cinderfella 2: A New Life Chapter: 14 The Creid Author: Eric McQueen ail) Mature Readers only due to sexual situations and graphic sexual content Freedom of expression is precious. To do that Nifty needs help. Your donation is greatly desired. Give to fty/ or this story ends and all the others! That would be a crime! A dreaded foe needs to help!? Everyone knows the Creid were savage, barbarians. Prince Erik attempts to present an olive leaf. The Creid The end of the week came, and it was decided that Darrin, Quaid, and I were going to the capital of the Creids. I put my clothes in a pack, they were wrapped around a Seer that I packed to show this Ryan what I found and ask for help. “It’ll be colder up there.” Seth said as he brought me a sweater, but he was speaking very softly and sad. I took the sweater and turned him to me, “I don’t want to leave you, not like this.” I moved so he had to look at me. “I love you, Seth! We’ve not been apart like this…ever! Please tell me you understand why I’m going.” Seth nodded, but I saw tears about to break free, “I do understand, but I don’t like it.” Then I realized things were getting blurry. I wiped my face of the tears I hadn’t known I was shedding. “I don’t like it either, but I have to do it.” I took his hand and led him up to the attic and activated the doorway. “Christian?” I called. I saw my brother instantly stand in front of the mirror quickly followed by Ella. “So, you’re going,” Christian said sadly to confirm what he knew and then he and Ella stepped through. He hugged me. “I won’t say it again, I expect you to contact me as soon as you get back. You will come back!” He said hugging me again and then Ella hugged me. “Be safe,” Ella urged and caressed my face. “Don’t worry about Seth. We’ll visit with him every night, I promise.” She promised and kissed me. I nodded as I stepped away, “I’ll talk to you in a few weeks. I need to say goodbye to Dennis and Toby…” I took Seth’s hand as they stepped back to A’Dore. The doorway was a mirror again. “But first…” I grinned to Seth. “Before I go.” Seth grinned sadly. “One for the road?” He asked then grabbed me, holding me tightly as his voice broke a little. “Always for love, but not again for a few weeks.” I looked at the sky outside. “We’ve got about an hour before the guys get here.” Seth inhaled slowly, “That’s not enough time, but I’ll take it.” He sighed. We did make love and with each thrust, caress or kiss I promised I’d be back. It was all too soon as we heard the horses in front of the house. Dressing quickly, I got my pack. “Aren’t you taking this?” Seth asked holding my sword out to me. “No,” I shook my head. “I won’t go armed.” Seth’s eyes widened. “There are other dangerous things out there, Erik! You may need to protect yourself!” “That’s what Quaid and Darrin are coming for,” I pointed out equally loud. I sighed and walked over to Seth. “I have my dagger if needed, but I can’t walk up to King Mordor with a sword. Or even ride into Creid territory.” I took the sword and put it down. “It stays.” Seth nodded knowing I wouldn’t change my mind. “Tell me again how this is a good idea.” “It’s the best hope for any of us. Toby, Dennis, you, Sam, Terry, all of Royal Valley, Blethos, A’Dore…” I said. “Okay!” Seth sighed he raised his hand to stop me from going on. “Okay, I get it again. If I find this Len Na, I’d like to kill her myself.” He grumbled. “I’ll get the boys.” He said and walked off slowly to do that. “I don’t like this!!” He said loudly back as he went to our boys’ room. Coming down with my pack, I saw Zeke and Gabe there as well. Then I see Garth and Bent come up. I smiled as they walked up. I don’t think Quaid knew there were many like Seth and me in the world! Now here were two other male couples. His eyes grew as he saw Zeke and Gabe holding hands as were Garth and Bent holding hands. I chuckled as I patted Quaid on the arm. “It’s not contagious,” I said softly to Quaid. “Relax.” What I didn’t let escape my sight was Darrin smiling at what he saw and not the mocking smile, but he liked what he saw. Was he one like Seth and me also? Zeke and Gabe hugged me. “Be careful.” Zeke warned. “And don’t worry about Seth,” Bent grinned. “We’ll watch out for him. Don’t worry about it.” I shook my head. “I’ve never heard anyone say to be careful about this trip.” I grinned. “Well, the Creids are known to be a little rough,” Garth pointed out. Quaid frowned at the amount of knowledge they had. “And how do you know about this trip?” Seth came holding Dennis and had Toby by the hand who was coming on sturdy legs, but still a little toddling. His steps were sure. “It’s not a large village, Quaid. Word passes pretty quickly here.” But his whole demeanor was just….depressed. “It could be more bluster than reality,” I offered them. “There could be nice people there as well.” Then I looked at Seth. “Nothing needs to be said that hasn’t been said.” I said coming over and hugged Toby and then hugged Dennis and kissed them both. “Take care of Daddy.” I told Toby as Toby signed his question again why I was going. “I need to speak with a man, to prevent a lot of people getting hurt. I’ll be back. It will be a few weeks.” Toby didn’t like it either, but it hurt me to leave them. I was leaving Seth and two little souls I cherished. None of us had been apart this long before. I kissed Seth again, longer, and only parting when it seemed to be inevitable we would separate. “I’ll be back.” I said again softly to Seth who just nodded, but his tears were coming. Taking a deep breath, I mounted the horse and we started off for the road to take us to the Creid Capital at an easy trot. We got pretty far the first night. The village in the distance and we made camp as the sun was setting. The countryside now was pretty rough. The second night the soft, rounded hills were becoming sharper and more scraggly covered in vegetation. Forests were occasional and then thinned out. Soon mountains appeared on the horizon. It was after dark by the fire I missed Seth the most. He has been my constant companion for years now and his absence was felt. “Are you alright, Erik?” Darrin came from seeing to the horses and sat by me asking quietly as we relaxed. I nodded. “I miss Seth.” Darrin smiled. “Well, I’m sure he misses you, too.” Then he smiled more. “I think it’s nice to have someone to miss and will miss you.” I looked at Darrin. He was in his late twenties or early thirties. And you all know I’m not really attracted to blond men, but he was nice looking with blue eyes and a chiseled jaw. He was a soldier and had been trained to fight if necessary and had a body that showed that. Now that we were relaxing, he’d taken off the light armor and just had on a loose shirt and pants. I would have been tempted. “So, there’s no one back home for you?” He shook his head leaning back on one elbow. “Not really.” He chuckled as he tossed a stick in the flames. “In the service of King Samuel, we really don’t have a lot of time. I spend most of my time with Owen, Quaid and the others.” I nodded knowing it was hard. “Everyone needs someone. Why not one of them? If for no other reason, just to have someone to be with?” Darrin smiled at the idea. “Until recently, that was never an option. And our schedules change….guys transfer, and new guys come in…it just seems easier not to get involved.” I was fishing to get him to say he liked the idea of being with a guy. “But you think it’s okay for two humans to just be together…even if they’re both male?” He chuckled again. “Again, until recently that wasn’t an option, so I never considered it. Besides, Quaid is involved with someone. Owen has someone, not serious, but still…” he shrugged. “But if the opportunity presents itself?” I grinned as I looked at his surprised look, wondering if I were offering something. “Not with me.” I laughed. “I have Seth, thanks. You’re a nice-looking man, but should someone attract you’re attention? I think you’re a very nice guy.” Darrin nodded with a shrug. “I try to be a very nice guy. Sure, I’d like it, but I don’t see that very soon.” So he didn’t care if it was a guy! Yay for us! “It just seems that love and a relationship is what we’re made for. We’re only at our best when we have someone in our lives. Our whole society is centered around finding someone and building a life together. Otherwise, we just die…inside.” I smiled. “There are a lot more people like Seth and me than I realized. We’re everywhere it seems. In every occupation and in every village and town. It was only to keep Blethos together were Seth and I allowed to marry. I can’t imagine life without him now.” I patted his arm lightly. “Just keep your eyes open. And you’re heart.” The mountains got steeper and rougher. There were roads that had been carved out of the mountainside. Rocky inclines that if the road had not been there, we would not have made it. That wasn’t everywhere. Occasionally there were valleys and there, with streams and some soil were farms and homes, but any soil was farmed, the houses were on the sides of the slopes. Trees grew up the sides of the mountains and in that occasional break was a house. Then a village. This was Creid territory. My feeling now about what I saw was…dirty, but it wasn’t the town as much as the dirt, rock and soil that was around it; it seemed to stain walls black. There were no sidewalks. Even the occasional person seen had on clothes and I thought…it needs washing. Men and women walked, doing their…whatever….in clothing with the soil on them. Even the occasional child I saw had on…hardly anything but a cloth draped over his shoulders and belted with a rope. Their bare feet were black from the soil and came up their legs. There wasn’t a lot of money here. There was livestock near some homes from pigs, goats, horses, cows, chickens, and there was the occasional dog and many cats. They were close to the homes, and I wrinkled my nose when passing some like the pigs. To smell that all the time would turn my stomach. The people that we passed would look at us but kept on doing what they needed to do. We were strangers, but no one asked us anything. “How can they stand to live like this?” Darrin asked quietly. I shook my head. “I don’t think there’s much of a choice.” Compared to the people we saw; we were well dressed and clean! Then I saw the castle. Just as I had seen it before, only now I was approaching it from the ground, not flying with Demetrius’ mind. It was still basically a pile of rocks! There was no art form. It was barely bricks. But there were towers to watch the area and I knew we were being tracked. At the castle gate a group of men, wearing dark black leather, riding horses rode to meet us. About six of them. But they had on armor, as in they had leather helmets on as well as the leather armor and that was clean and shined with oil. This look was impressive; they all had different animal shapes to their helmets. I saw a couple of bears, two wolves, panther, and a hawk. All black leather. They were expertly crafted and meant to intimidate. It got me! They stopped, and I saw the swords they wore, but they weren’t drawn now. “Who are you?” A man asked from the middle, the black panther. “What do you want?” “I am Prince Erik from Blethos and A’Dore,” I said to the man. “I would like an audience with King Mordor. It’s a matter that concerns all our kingdoms.” I reached into my pack and pulled the metal container with a message I’d written. Then I rode up to the man and removed my royal signet ring. “I’m here on behalf of King Samuel and King Christian.” I raised my hand. “I wear only a dagger, which I will give you, then be unarmed which I’m sure you will find out yourselves.” That was standard procedure. I pulled my dagger out of its sheath and handed the dagger, handle first, to the man that was the panther. The man was not stupid. He looked at me with a critical eye, but saw the dagger, took it. Then he took the metal canister and ring. “I don’t think it needs to be verified that you are unarmed. You would have nothing to gain attacking any of us now, so wait here. I will speak on your behalf. There is no one else in Creid?” I shook my head. “We are the only ones.” The man nodded and turned his horse around and rode back into the castle. It seemed a while before he came back. “Follow me, please.” He instructed as the other animal guards parted to let us through. “Your belongings will be searched.” I nodded. “Understood.” Quaid’s and Darrin’s swords were taken as well as their daggers. Our packs were searched, though the panther helmeted man paused at the Seer. “What is this?” “It is an instrument bursa escort to see things close up. A magnifier of a kind. I have something the king needs to see.” I said. “It’s no weapon.” The man nodded and put it down with my other belongings. We were escorted to a room in the castle. The castle lacked any of the things that Blethos or A’Dore had. There was very little “pretty” here. Walls of stone that surrounded floors of stone. Not a single rug. The only decorations were shields on the walls, or swords, a bow, and some arrows. They seemed to like war more as an art. I had to admit, war or fighting was a kind of art. But the overall feeling was dark. There was the occasional servant doing what they needed to, but the room we were told to wait in was just four walls and cots on the edges and a couple of chamber pots. “You’ll be sent for shortly.” The man told us and left. Quaid smiled. “This has gone far better than I imagined.” I chuckled. “Because we weren’t attacked?” “Exactly,” Quaid pointed out happily with a bounce. “I did notice a lot of metal. Swords, shields, arrows and knives.” I shrugged. “Well, the one thing they have up here is minerals in abundance. A lot of iron and they have the coal to melt it down which they can do.” Darrin smiled. “At least there wasn’t a fight.” I chuckled. “But there will be.” Quaid and Darrin looked startled at that. “Why?” Quaid asked. “From all that I’ve read about the Creids. Their most basic belief is; might makes right.” I shrugged. “A man truly believes something and is willing to fight for it, has more merit. To prove I am so sure about this, I will make the Challenge of Conviction.” I chuckled. “There are many ancient laws still on the books, so…” I shrugged Quaid’s eyes widened, “You can’t! They’re brutes! You saw those guards! They were huge!” I grinned. “And?” “They’ll fight dirty!” Darrin almost wailed. I nodded with a chuckle. “I can fight dirty, too.” I walked over and put my arms over Darrin’s and Quaid’s shoulders like old chums. “I was trained and I’m pretty good. You’ll see.” I patted their shoulders. “Relax.” Then I smiled confidently at them. “You didn’t hear about Darius? Now, he wasn’t even a challenge. I’ll be fine.” I was a little nervous about it. Showing confidence is good. Showing you won’t back down was key. King Mordor had to listen. It was a few hours before someone came to the room telling us King Mordor would see us. Taking us through the rest of the castle I saw more that was…well…there were antlers on the walls of one room I assumed was a dining hall. It was big. Again, no rugs, but there were tables with benches and a huge fireplace. Before the fireplace was a table and there were chairs there. You could burn a whole tree in the fireplace! We were led to a large…hall? Men in black leather armor stood in intervals about the room. I guess it was the throne room. This was different than other parts of the castle. The walls were decorated with the swords and shields. The swords crossed or just on display. There were also tapestries here that depicted scenes of war and victories. An emblem of the Creid nation itself over a throne where King Mordor sat. The ornate throne rooms of A’Dore or Blethos this was not. But it had a grandeur all its own. It said we were in a warriors’ territory. I saw again the man that was king. Only this time he wore clothes. His hair was still black that grey was streaking through in parts, and he was grey at the temples. He had a full beard that also held grey. He wore a fur robe over his shoulders and wore a leather breast plate over his chest that showed muscles, but that was the plate. Having seen him naked, I knew what was beneath that plate. He was still a large bear of a man, and the plate was probably right in the past. Yet he looked with keen dark eyes as we approached, and he held the bearing of a king. On his head was the crown of gold. His face held patience, to a point, but he was ready. Beside him were two guards in black leather, no masks, but looked angry and large! I held my hand up to Quaid and Darrin and approached the throne on the only carpet I’d seen so far in the castle. I bowed to King Mordor. “Thank you for seeing me, Your Majesty. I am Prince Erik of Blethos and A’Dore.” King Mordor held up the letter I’d written to him. “You wrote about a mutual enemy. One that would threaten not only Blethos and A’Dore, but also the Creid.” I nodded. “I did. In fact, I believe it to be a threat to the entire human race. I know it’s true.” Then King Mordor frowned. “So, what kind of threat is too great for the great Kingdoms of Blethos and A’Dore can’t handle without our help?” He was not only disbelieving what I written, but he held great distrust in our motives. “I can show you,” I said. “You are said to have a knowledge that we lack. Combining our efforts and knowledge, we can overcome this threat.” The king chuckled. “Knowledge?” He tossed the letter I wrote aside. “You came for knowledge? Don’t you of Blethos and A’Dore believe yourselves to be superior to the Creid? Aren’t we but simple barbarians to you?” I smiled and lowered my eyes a little. “I will admit, and you have made it a point to build a reputation of brute force and savagery. It is a reputation that I and many of my countrymen believed, but is it true? I don’t know anyone from Creid. I hope that a mutual contribution between us, we can change that opinion. I do not believe a man is more worthy than another. Knowledge gives power and you are said to have this knowledge. No man or kingdom is greater than another.” King Mordor still was looking very wary of me. “So, you want to be friends with the Creid?” He nodded. “Perhaps then we can become allies…and maybe then become a part of a greater force in the world. A’Dore, Blethos and Creid Empires?” “Would that be so bad?” I asked and then I sighed. “King Mordor, I know that you and your kingdom were blamed for a great many things. I know that Arthur Thorne approached you when he had King Alexander’s wife killed and planted evidence that you were to blame. You did not. I know that.” King Mordor’s eyes widened. “You do? How do you know we weren’t part of that?” “It was proven. Evidence and testimony explained who was responsible and motive. Arthur and his children paid the price. They are dead.” I said simply. “To which you, Prince Erik of A’Dore, restored the king his son and made him king by marrying Prince Phillip.” I nodded. “That is correct, Your Majesty.” “And how do I know this isn’t some…ploy to get your hands on Creid? To absorb us into this empire?” King Mordor asked and then he shook his head. “This is a trick of some kind.” I expected this. “King Mordor, I will do what I can to prove I’m telling the truth.” I assured. “There is a threat about to hit this world no one is prepared for. You ship ore to both Blethos and A’Dore, in exchange for goods and food, but isn’t there some way I can show I mean no harm and only seek your help?” King Mordor shook his head. “I don’t see how.” I nodded. “Then I seek the Challenge of Conviction,” I said loud and it echoed in the hall. That made King Mordor’s eyebrows rise, “That is an ancient Creid custom. Even we don’t really use it much now. That means combat.” “If by doing this, you understand, I mean you no harm. I do not want anything from you but cooperation and a healing between our kingdoms. You, King Mordor, are not a fool. You’ve proven that. You are a king. You’ve shown wisdom in the past and I’m sure you’ll show it in the future, but I will do whatever it takes to convince you of my sincerity.” “My warriors are pretty good. How does a pampered prince from A’Dore or Blethos think he could best one of my men?” I walked a little closer. “Because I’m right! If my words don’t convince you, my actions will. You may find me not as pampered as you think. To work together we need trust between us. My intent is to assure you to place trust in me by showing I can be trusted.” King Mordor was not really expecting this but looked about the room. “Which should I choose?” He said more to unnerve me as he gazed over his guards. “Make him a skilled one, Sire,” I said smiling. “I don’t want to hurt any of these nice men.” The king, the guards beside him and other guards were chuckling at the idea. They saw humor if for no reason other than my confidence. Most of them were larger than me. “I applaud your belief in your abilities, but you understand the rules, don’t you?” I nodded. “Victory is only assured if the opponent is disarmed, yields or is severely injured.” “Or killed,” The king said further as a warning. “That sometimes happens.” I grinned at the king, “Understood. And don’t worry, I’ll go easy on your choice.” That brought new laughter from all, including Quaid and Darrin. I waved to the many weapons on the walls. “Do you mind if I use one or two of these?” The king was still chuckling as he nodded. “Sure, help yourself.” He waved at the whole wall. “Whatever you feel you can use.” Then he stood. “You can even use mine, if you like.” He pulled the sword from its sheath he had on his waist. Looking at it, I frowned. “Too long for me but thank you.” I smiled as I looked until I found one about the length I was used to and a smaller, short sword. Both good steel and looked well honed. I clanked them together to hear the ring of the metal and assured myself of their strength. “I think these will do.” I spun the longer sword around testing its balance and how well I could maneuver it. The king was smiling more, but the feeling was now more relaxed if you can believe that. He was beginning to trust me. The guards in the hall were more relaxed. This was something they knew. A good fight was about to commence and this added some excitement in their otherwise routine day., “Yannick!” The king shouted. Then from the wall came this mountain of a man. Huge! He was over six and a half feet tall and weighed…a lot! Dark black hair and had a short cut beard on his face and a scowl on that face which wasn’t ugly even with the scowl. I didn’t back down as he approached. “Wow,” I grinned as he came closer and having to look up. “You must be the runt of the litter.” Then looked at the king. “What do you feed these guys!?” Say what you will, but if you win a man with humor, it has a tendency to go better and make your opponent less likely to want to kill you. “Just mother’s milk.” Yannick growled. “You nurse from a Kodik Bear? That’s impressive.” I smiled at the man who was now chuckling thinking of the largest land predator I knew of when standing was over eight or nine feet of several tons of angry bear when defending her cubs. “So, wherever and whenever.” I swung a sword making the blade whistle through the air. With that Yannick did a simple sword swing which I countered easily. Then he pulled a small, a bit longer than a dagger, but shorter than my short sword. His moves were not like Darius’, but more precise and more thought out. Each of which I blocked, and he attempted to thrust the small sword at me which I deflected. Then it became more intense. This fight, I would have to work to win. He was good. I was going to have to earn this victory. These men were taught the key was to win. Skill was good, but the victory was the only thing important and at whatever the cost is what you did. Soon I was fending off thrust after thrust. Yannick and I were soon sweating profusely. Then when he and I were caught in a struggle, almost face to face, I saw him grin as I felt his breath on me he was so close, but again it was like seeing a bear grin at you before he bites you’re head off. “You’re very good.” Yannick said. “So are you,” I grunted back, but I should have seen it coming sooner, but did a little late. Enough as his forehead came forward swiftly and would have broken my nose, but I turned my head slightly and got most of his blow on the cheek which almost made me see lights before my eyes! “Sneaky.” Yannick shoved me away. “Whatever it takes to win.” “Okay,” I grinned, but was tasting blood from the impact he’d given me. Our swords again dueled and clanked as more thrusts were tried as we both put real effort in this fight. Thrusts were more powerful and swift. I was able to counter each, and we were all but dancing as we circled each other, but I could see he was getting winded and so was I. This had been going on a while. The others were cheering us on. This was exciting for them. They were cheering, but not necessarily for Yannick. This was for the fight itself! Who would win? Now the men had doubts about Yannick’s certain victory they believed before. Darrin and Quaid were cheering me on. I got one thrust in and while he countered that one, I stuck on escort bayan his side close above his belt, but I didn’t want to kill the man. He was good! His leather armor, to which I had none, not fair, saved him a deeper cut, but I knew he’d be bleeding now, but he kept going. Thrusts again and our swords clanked again and again we were face to face, now feeling each other breath, only and inch part. “Whatever it takes?” I grunted to Yannick. “Whatever it takes,” Yannick confirmed with a nod. “Sorry, Seth,” I muttered and kissed Yannick on the lips which was so surprising to him and caught him so off guard, I sent both his long sword and short sword flying to clank on the stone floor a good few feet away. “Whatever it takes.” I reminded Yannick who was breathing as hard as I was. To my surprise, he caught himself and the disbelief went away as he suddenly laughed heartily. He wasn’t mad at all. “A victory! Our new friend. Prince Erik of Blethos and A’Dore!!” The king shouted also laughing as was every man there! I walked up to Yannick and looked at the gash I’d given him. “That needs to be wrapped.” I said, but my concern was genuine. “That could get infected.” Then Yannick grabbed me in…well…it was the first real bear hug I’d ever gotten as he laughed. I had been hugged in what I thought was a bear hug, this was very strong! “I’ve had much worse.” Then he slapped me on the back which if he’d hit me like that before, he would have won! “You fought well, Your Highness. I hadn’t thought you had a chance, but you won!” He pulled me in hugging me again. “By a kiss!!” I grinned at him, “Never underestimate the power of affection.” “It worked!” Yannick admitted, but then bowed slightly as King Mordor approached. “Forgive me, Sire.” King Mordor was all smiles. “You did your best, Yannick. There’s nothing to forgive.” He put his arm around my shoulder. “He just did something…unusual. A very little tried tactic.” “I like you guys!” I said and meant it! I was more surprised than they were, I think. “You fellas know how to laugh and enjoy a good joke.” I looked at Yannick. “You fought with honor.” “That is what it means to be a Creid.” King Mordor nodded laughing. “Of course, we have humor. Who said we didn’t?” “I don’t know, but everyone thinks of you all as rough and somewhat….” “Barbaric.” King Mordor finished nodding. “And we fostered that opinion for our own protection.” I shook my head, “I don’t get it.” King Mordor led me away toward the throne again. “You mentioned the Kodik Bear. Would you take what she has?” He asked. “No,” I shook my head. “She would kill me!” King Mordor smiled. “There’s your answer,” He said logically. “We are not a wealthy kingdom and for a long time we kept ourselves safe but occasionally being the savage barbarians because the world thinks we are.” Then he sat and offered me the throne next to him. “It was wife number three’s throne, but she’s gone now. There isn’t a replacement yet. Sit.” I sat breathing easier. “Thank you.” “So how did you know about our ancient customs?” King Mordor asked now seemed to be completely at ease with me. “I read it.” I answered simply. “It’s in the A’Dore’s historical archives.” “Is it?” King Mordor smiled, “And you read it.” He nodded. “Is it critical that I see what you have now? Or can we feast first?” I smiled as I watched Quaid and Darrin looking anxiously at me. “I’m hungry. I’m sure my friends could eat.” I waved at them. King Mordor smiled as he slapped his hands on his knees. “Then feast we will!” He looked up. “Yannick! Get yourself seen and meet us in the banquet hall. All of you!” He commanded to all there. “The threat we will discuss.” He said softer to me. “But first, we eat! Testament to your victory!” The banquet hall we passed was now the place where there was a lot of activity. Men and women rushed to get things ready, so smells that were pretty interesting in a good way was coming from there. The guards and others were gathering also, laughing, and talking and rose as King Mordor and I came in. The king knew who he was and so did everyone else, so King Mordor just waved them down. The head table was in front of the fireplace which burned merrily and in this part the world it got cold at night, so it was inviting. King Mordor waved to the seat to the right of his. “I hope I didn’t hurt Yannick,” I was still worried about the man. An infection was nothing to take lightly, it could kill him if not treated. King Mordor smiled as his eyes held something else…. “My son will be fine.” “Your son!?” I asked startled when I heard this. “That huge man is your son?” Then I looked at King Mordor, but now I saw the resemblance and shrugged. “Now I see it.” I nodded. “He was very, very good.” “As were you,” King Mordor nodded. “And you didn’t know he was my son, did you?” Then his face softened thinking about something. “He was the only thing my first wife gave me. I was barely over my teens when we married. She was a beautiful woman.” I smiled a little sadly. “You clearly loved her.” I just said what I saw in his eyes. “Very much.” King Mordor nodded. “And will be the only one I ever love. The other women and even wives were…just company. Fine women, but not Lessha.” Then he looked at me curiously. “You married Prince Phillip.” I nodded. “I am still married to him. And he goes by Seth now.” “Kissing my son wasn’t new to you then.” He grinned. “You’ve kissed men.” “I kiss Seth.” Now I felt a little guilty. “Sorry about that kiss.” King Mordor laughed at that. “Why? Because of it, you won!” “I like Yannick, but I have a husband,” I grinned. “I’ve only kissed Seth and now Yannick.” King Mordor shook his head. “I’m sure you’ll break my son’s heart.” He held his hands over his heart in mocking sadness. “He’ll be fine, but I am pleased you were concerned about him before you knew he was my son.” Then he looked at me. “So, you’ve never been with a woman.” I shook my head. “Never.” He shrugged. “It’s a pity. Their so soft and round…” “Which I don’t want,” I said again chuckling. “Men can be beautiful. I prefer the harder form of men and they are not so round and soft, which I prefer.” I shrugged. “Seth is more than I could have dreamed of. Not a soft, round part on him.” “All that hair in places…doesn’t bother you?” King Mordor asked quietly, but his face told me he was just curious, not offended. I shook my head. “It’s actually very attractive to me.” King Mordor just sat back considering what I said, “Huh.” The feast began and Prince Yannick came with his side bandaged wearing only a shirt and the bandage was seen. He sat on the left of his father. He frowned as he looked at me with a wince as he looked at me. “I’m sorry about that.” He pointed to a place on his face then to me. “You’re starting to bruise.” I shrugged. “It’ll heal.” I smiled. “I hope you’ll be alright.” Yannick smiled. “As I said before, I’ve had worse.” “This threat. How bad will it be and what knowledge do we have that can help?” King Mordor asked as they served us some roasted chicken that smelled devine. Why not tell them? “They are so small; you can’t see them unaided.” I explained as I was served a piping hot dish. “I discovered a whole other world all around us and even inside us. There are these little creatures that are pretty deadly. My brother was almost killed when someone got some into him.” “We heard King Christian was ill, but by little creatures? We can’t just stomp them out, can we?” Yannick asked. “They are very, very small.” I said, “But inside a man, they feed off of us and reproduce. There are enough that a man can spread them to his family as well as others where they reproduce there and kill everyone.” King Mordor frowned, “But you said there was a new threat. Something else?” “There is a woman, who knows how to use these little creatures and use them to kill.” I said seriously. “I believe she will do it and threatens not only A’Dore, Blethos and Creid, but humans everywhere.” The king looked at his son, who merely looked back, not that they weren’t believing me, but…well, it was hard to believe. “Then…” King Mordor seemed to accept what I said. He trusted me! “We will work together.” I swear, my first impression of him was so wrong! He was actually a nice guy! He was looking better to me as I eat with these new friends. The banquet hall was now a symphony of men talking, laughing, and kidding each other. These were not just soldiers, they were warriors! Then the feeling I now got from them was extremely pleasant. In their eyes, I’d proven I was to be trusted. They had no problem accepting me as a friend now. At the end of the meal, I rose, but felt the muscles telling me not to move fast. I was getting stiff and sore. I didn’t mean to, but I must have made a sound. King Mordor and Yannick looked at me cautiously. “You’re a little sore?” King Mordor nodded knowing what I was feeling. “I’d be surprised if you weren’t.” I nodded. “Is there a hot bath I can get?” Yannick smiled nodding. “I know just where to take you. If you’re done with us for now, Father?” King Mordor nodded. “Of course.” He looked at me. “We’ll discuss what is needed in the morning, if that’s okay with you?” “I’ll be ready, Your Majesty,” I nodded. Yannick got up. Whether it was to say my groan was understood or something else, he let out a little groan himself. “In fact, I could use a hot soak myself.” He waved for me to follow. I bowed to the king and followed Yannick, only stopping to tell Quaid and Darrin what was happening. They were being treated well by the other warriors and seemed to be enjoying themselves, delighting in an unexpected, pleasant company. Yannick led me to some stone stairs that led down. We went deeper in the castle to what looked like caves. The Creid had burrowed out much of it for easier passing. Added torches and lamps and soon we arrived at…well….there were dozens of tubs! Tubs made like the wine barrels Seth, and I used for wine, only much bigger and these were filled with steaming water. I looked as there were pipes rising from somewhere that went up through the ceiling or cave roof to somewhere above unseen. “Wow,” I said looking around the large area. It was a cavern! “Where are we?” Yannick chuckled. “There are many hot springs in Creid. Vents where the water in the ground is super-heated. Boiling really. We access and pipe the water to create heat above in the castle. The pressure is so high from the natural geysers the water flows easily. These tubs are mixed with cold and the hot waters to make them tolerable. The guards and soldiers use them after a campaign or after practice.” He shrugged. “Or just because it’s there. It’s very relaxing. It will help the muscles relax and lessen the soreness.” I grinned at the set up. “Natural hot water! This is amazing.” Turning to Yannick. “We have water heaters in Blethos and there are some in A’Dore, but we have to heat the water. Here it naturally is hot!” Yannick nodded. “For us. Like I said, we have to cool it down to use it.” He said pulling on his shirt. Then he stopped. “We often bath communally. Meaning we do it together. Do you mind?” I pulled on my clothes. “I’ve bathed often with others. Mostly my husband now. We love our nightly hot bath. Nudity is not unknown or frowned on. There are some more modest than I am.” I pulled my shirt off. Yannick nodded. “Good.” He waved toward the tubs. “There are drying cloths about. The water is clean and flushed almost as fast as its added, so new water replaces the old.” He said as he finished undressing. I looked at his wound I’d given him. “The hot water may make your cut bleed more.” I pointed to his cloth bandage. He smiled. “It looks worse than it is. It’s really not that deep. The armor deflected much of the cut. It might bleed, but it’s mostly stopped now. I’ll have it rebound after the bath.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look. Yannick was a handsome man! He was between Seth and Christian in age, about thirty. He was big that was sure, but he was a little hairier than Seth. He had the close-cropped beard of black and his chest, which was well formed, was covered in the black hair. His arms were also well formed as were his legs. He didn’t care that I was married to a man or could or would look at him. He stepped in a tub letting a hiss out as he lowered himself in the water. The tubs were large enough for six or seven men. There were enough tubs to provide hot baths for a whole battalion of soldiers. “Join me.” Yannick motioned toward his tub. “We can talk easier.” I put my foot in the water and it was hot! It was almost too hot, but I eased in feeling the delicious warmth radiate through my muscles. Then slowly lowered myself to sit on bursa escort benches that were positioned for a man to sit and enjoy the steamy comfort. “This is sinful.” I said letting my head fall back on rest I saw there. Yannick chuckled. “It is.” He agreed. I looked back to him, “Your name sounds Parisian.” He nodded with a smile. “That’s because it is. My mother’s father’s name. He was Parisian. She named me after him.” “There is a lot I’d like to learn about Creid. Care to share?” I asked sincerely. “What do you want to know?” Yannick asked. I shrugged. “All of it if possible. You have others here from other parts of the world. Thus, your name.” Yannick nodded. “We are a nation…or people that are made up from a lot of other kingdoms. We have people that came from A’Dore, Blethos and Darma. Other people, like my grandfather, just came from other continents. Either to escape raiding hordes, or just to hide. That was easy to do up here. The mountains are a natural protection. Until we began mining and exporting ore, we really were very poor and still are, but keeping this part of the world takes effort. Some kingdoms…even Blethos and A’Dore wanted what we have and are willing to just take it. There were parties that would come and take over. We were barbaric in the past. We got the reputation of being blood thirsty and even savage. That helped keep the other kingdoms away. Fear.” I nodded. “But we’re not all like that. A’Dore could be a friend. So can Blethos.” Yannick nodded. “Those opinions of us will take time to change. The reputation served us well for a long time. It will be hard to overcome.” “I understand,” I said. “There are those that will take what they feel they deserve, whether or not they do or don’t deserve it.” I smiled. “But we, A’Dore and Blethos aren’t like that.” Yannick smiled nodding. “Father sees that. I see that, but Grandfather was very wary of strangers. It is a distrust passed on by the generations. We can and will fight if necessary. Father has begun to realize we don’t need to.” “Keeping yourselves ready to fight is an absolute necessity. Our troops are drilled and trained to do that and will fight when needed.” I shrugged, “I was trained to do that. So was Christian.” Yannick nodded a concession. “And I found out you learned very well. You were damned good!” I grinned. “Thank my instructor Jason. He never let up just because I am a prince.” Yannick smiled at that. “He must be Creid. Whatever it takes.” Then he frowned. “I’m guilty, too. I judged you because you’re from A’Dore and Blethos. I assumed you were, as Father said, a pampered prince, but clearly you’re not.” I chuckled. “Well, I like to pampered sometimes, but I respect what I’ve learned. Creid is not made of barbarians at all.” Then I sniffed as I smelled what I’d smelled in King Mordor’s room those years ago. “Is there Sulphur in this water?” Yannick sniffed too. “I don’t really smell it. I suppose so.” I grinned now knowing that explained what I smelled when I first saw King Mordor. It wasn’t that he didn’t bath, it was from this water! “It’s not bad.” I loved the radiant heat soaking in my muscles. “I like you, Yannick.” He chuckled. “You’re just saying that because I kissed you.” I laughed. “As I recall, I kissed you, but I have a tendency to like the people I kiss. I must have a thing for princes. So far, they are the only men, or even women, I have kissed that I wasn’t related to.” Yannick chuckled. “I like you, too, Erik.” I was escorted to another room other than one we were led to after arriving. This room was, again, not overly furnished. There was a bed with a few lamps and a wooden bench that held a chamber pot. The bed was comfortable. The fur that covered the bed was warm as I crawled underneath it. I slept very well. It was after breakfast when I was asked about more details on the new threat. “The new threat can only be seen in what I have a Seer.” I had brought some glass containers and small portions of glass to put any sample on. We went to a small room where I set things up and lighting the lamp to see. I directed the reflectors to show King Mordor and Yannick what I had. Using my own blood, I cut and place the blood underneath. “Take a look at what you’ll see about my blood.” King Mordor looked and did like everyone does. Looked at what he saw and then looked at what he was looking at without the Seer to see if there was trick and then back again. “This is your blood!? There’s all these little things!” I nodded glad he saw it. “Yes, and makes up your blood, too. We have identified things in blood and so far there are several kinds of blood. I am kind one. The thing is, when blood of different kinds are combined, if not careful, the blood will fight each other. There is a kind that doesn’t fight with any other kind, but that’s not the norm.” I explained and got what Dr. Warren had drawn to show of the other of these little creatures and how different they were and how varied they were. “There are also other things….creatures that are alive and will be in blood. When we get illnesses of any kind they are all different little creatures for each illness.” I explained. “A while back, someone managed to get some little creatures in my brother, King Christian. They nearly killed him. I am certain they would have…” Yannick had looked at the glass and seen the blood, too. “But he lives. We heard about the attack, but you cured him.” “He was cured because I was given…” How did I explain this? “…something that would help what’s in his body fight these little creatures and assure victory.” King Mordor nodded. “But there’s no more.” He said it not as a question. It was logical. King Mordor was very smart. “Otherwise, you’d simply get more.” I nodded pleased I wasn’t dealing with a simpleton. “And please believe me. Do you believe there are…people that can access things…well…it’s like magic?” I asked worried they’d throw me in a hold thinking I must be insane. Both Yannick and King Mordor exchanged an uncertain look. Then King Mordor gave a careful nod. “I know there are things in this world…that can’t be explained logically. Are you saying that was how your brother was cured?” “If I say yes, do you believe me?” I asked. King Mordor frowned as wandered a little pondering how to answer. “A few decades ago, I was skeptical. Then this Lukus character seemed a little…unusual and Arthur Thorne was convinced Lukus could do magic and Arthur wasn’t too sharp, but he was no fool.” Then he wandered away a little more before turning back to me. “Then a few years ago, I heard a voice. No source I could see or find just spoke in the middle of the night and it was no dream or vision. It asked me about the attack on Blethos and the killing that occurred there to King Alexander’s family. The voice asked me if I were a part, which I say again, I had no part in.” I nodded. “And to which I assured you, I believe you didn’t. Arthur Thorne was trying to get his son on the throne. He thought he could force the issue killing Seth’s family, or rather Prince Phillip’s family. He and his brother survived that attack.” I explained what I knew. “So, if I tell you, I was given something to give to Christian that did cure him of these little creatures that attacked him.” “But now there isn’t anymore.” Yannick said nodding. That’s when I smiled. “And this is where you, the Creid, come in.” I raised a finger for them to hold their thoughts or questions. I pulled another drawing out. “The cure I was given to give Christian has resulted in these new little creatures. What Dr. Warren, our palace physician, says are little warriors for Christian. They attack and consume other little, more dangerous creatures, but leave Christian pretty much immune to new ones and healthy. These new warriors began reproducing and making more and more.” Yannick frowned. “We’ve never even seen blood this close before. How can we help?” “There is someone here. I was told a man named Ryan. Whose father knew about blood. I’m told he knew how to pass what is in a person’s blood that…maybe he knew how a man who was attacked by some illness or these little creatures or some like these, but survived, making his body capable of defeating the little creatures again. This man of cures here, Ryan, found a way of taking what is in another person’s blood and giving it to someone else, making this new person able to fight the new creatures without getting the illness at all!” King Mordor nodded. “We do have him and know him.” He smiled. “Though I don’t think he, his father was Ronan, or Ryan knew about these little creatures.” He turned to a man working in the room. “Can someone get Ryan and bring him here?” The man nodded and bowed. “At once, Sire.” He hurried out to do the task. Yannick looked again at the blood I had. “This is amazing! You thought of this?” He smiled in admiration. I chuckled. “Well, actually it was my husband. He thought of this.” “Huh,” Yannick grinned. “He must be a smart man.” I nodded. “He is.” Then I grinned. “And big, too.” I motioned to Yannick. Yannick chuckled. “You like big.” “I love big. I love him so I’m very fond of big.” “So, you believe me about the voice I heard?” King Mordor asked wanting to sure I believed his story. I nodded. “I do.” I wasn’t about to tell him that voice he heard was mine. “In fact, it was a couple of these people that brought Ella and Christian together. And Seth and I.” Yannick smiled. “The story about Cinderella is true? She had a fairy godmother!?” I grinned. “Who I have met, yes.” Yannick shook his head. “I need one of those fairy godparents.” Then he sat down. “And you had one?” I nodded again. “I did. He was the one that gave me the cure. The answer to this threat is in Christian’s blood. We just have to get them out so they can do the job with others.” Yannick shrugged. “I don’t see why not.” He looked at his father. “His father, Ronan, did cure people using blood from others. He even cured me of a fever that would have killed most men. He used blood from men it didn’t kill to cure me.” I smiled at that. “So, he did have a way of transferring what protected one man into another.” King Mordor nodded. “This has been going on here for a hundred years or so. Ronan’s father was the one that found it, but it was crude and didn’t always work and Ronan perfected it to ensure it did!” It took a few hours before a man came in. I was prepared for another large, dark-haired man. He was a good size, if you count me as being a good size at five feet and ten inches. What startled me was his red hair! Not orange like I’ve seen occasionally. We had few in A’Dore and some in Blethos, but not many. His hair was red. “This is Ryan,” King Mordor stood as Ryan entered. “He’s carried on his father’s work and taken many cures to people in Creid.” Standing up, I shook the new man’s hand and then explained about what I’d found and asked about what he knew. It was after he saw the blood he nodded with a smile. “It makes sense now!” He marveled to everyone and no one. He turned to me. “My father tried to get the blood of men that had the ability to fight an illness into another man. Some of the men lived and did become able to fight the illness. Others got sick or even died.” He sat with us as he told us about it. “Father found that putting the blood in containers and spinning them around fast in what he called a Spinner the blood separates!” He got up and looked again at the blood. “And there it is!” He looked back at us waving to the Seer. “My father said blood is made up of two parts. Solids and liquids. The Spinner forces those parts to separate. Like a yolk separated from the whites. The blood solids can be separated from the liquid. And there it is! He found a man’s ability to fight illness is not in the solids, but the liquids and that is tolerated by everyone! Something my grandfather wanted to do but failed many times.” I was feeling a lot of hope now. “But you know how to transfer this liquid to another person?” Ryan nodded. “Sure. We are good at metals in Creid, and a clean hollow needle will transfer the liquid to a person.” He said as if it was the easiest thing to do. I almost did a jig!! “Yes!! This is why I came here! You guys are great!!” I said hugging a surprised Ryan. “This is amazing!” Ryan chuckled not bothered at all about the hug, just surprised. “I’m glad we made you so happy.” “You did! All of you! We have a chance now.” I hugged Yannick who was chuckling and then was about to hug King Mordor, but hesitated. He was a king; you didn’t just hug a king. “I’d hug you, too, if you let me.” That’s when King Mordor laughed heartily and hugged me! “New friends in Creid! I love you people!!” Yannick laughed and then got mockingly serious. “Oh, but this could ruin our reputation.” “It will! It will absolutely ruin that reputation!” I nodded. “If this works, everyone is going to love the people from Creid, just like I do! You people are marvelous!!” Then I did do a jig.