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    Thread: Gods Chosen?

    1. #1
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Cool Gods Chosen?

      OK there have been some stories in anime and other places where some kid dies too soon and God owes him a favor. But it always happens in a few weeks, not realistic enough for me. so heres one more realistic and not as fast unfolding, because we don't need to squeeze things into a single season here.

      The Chosen of God?

      Chapter 1: God only knows...Accidents Happen

      James Hudson was walking home from school when he saw a puppy sitting shaking in fear by a telephone pole just off to the side of the walk. It was clear some worthless person stopped and dropped it off here, either hoping someone would claim it, or it would just get crushed under the tires of passing cars, out of their sight.

      He hated people like this, and he stepped over talking softly and reaching for the little dog when he heard a loud crashing sound....and a bright light shone all around him... and he looked around and saw a beautiful woman standing there with a white dress and the brightest glowing white wings, and she smiled as he looked surprised.

      “I swear, I was only petting a puppy.” he said as she looked like she’d burst out laughing any second, but she expertly held it in.These first few seconds after Death people say the silliest things.

      “Hello James, I’m here to tell you that you’ve passed on. You were struck by a truck just as you leaned down to help that little dog.” she informed him, as he looked sad and she felt bad for him too.

      “Dead at 15...thats one short life.” he hinted while looking sad, as she agreed it was, then cleared her throat and he looked up to see why.

      “Actually,” She said as a sheet of parchment magically appeared and she looked it over carefully.” You were scheduled to die at the age of 70, by massive heart failure, so this was a little too soon for you I’m afraid.” She admitted as he looked oddly at her for a second as she explained that it was the right time...for the truck driver...but they hadn’t seen that when he passed the truck would continue on further than expected.

      “Sooo....” James asked slowly, as the angel looked away.” I’m Heavens collateral damage today?” He hinted as she struck a serious pose and said that Heaven NEVER has collateral damage...and he waited for her to go on.

      “Be that as it may, I’m here to ask you what you want to do...return to your world and be saved by a Guardian Angel...” she said, as heavenly voices rang out at the word ‘angel’ and he smiled hearing it. “Or...you can live a new, full life on a different world... the kind your people have never seen before.” She mentioned as he looked impressed.

      “What’s this new world like?” He asked as she left him know it was like old Earth during the Middle Ages...only more advanced. They still had Kings and Queens, Dukes and Duchesses, but they were also just starting in their Industrial Age with new machines being built every day.

      “Sounds interesting,” he admitted and she told him that there, Master Craftsmen made everything by hand and Magicians and Wizards were real Professionals sought out for their brilliance and power, and he was sold. “Sounds like it might be fun, what kind of life would I lead there?” he asked as she just waved it back at him saying this was ,technically a mistake, so he could chose.

      “Will I have to be reborn again there?” He asked as she shook her head no saying people get lost and disappear without a trace every day there due to ‘Magical Interference’ so a new teenager suddenly appearing might get some attention, but not be totally unheard of, and he agreed.

      “We’ll see to it you have a good story lined up.” She said with a wink as he nodded, that white light hit him again, and he woke up under a big shade tree, breathing cool fresh air really close to a dirt road, and he was wearing old brown cloths and laced brown boots and a small staff was laying beside him.

      “I see you made it..” he heard in his mind as he stood and looked around.”Pick up your staff it will protect you while you travel.” he heard and he asked how.

      “Lay it horizontal in front of you at arms length and call ‘ Shield” she said and he tried it and a blue circle appeared there from his head to his feet. “This is basic defense magic here, so remember it well.”

      “Ok looks easy enough.” he mentioned as she agreed.

      “Now, point the wide end of the staff towards something and say,” Fire Blast” she said, and he tried and burned a bush to ashes and he looked impressed."All these skills will get stronger as you use them, remember, practice makes perfect!” She teased, as he chuckled and thanked her for this. “The little end will cause things to freeze, or can be used as an area effect weapon. Jam the little end into the ground and call ‘Freeze!” and he tried that too, and everything within 10 meters turned to ice instantly.

      “That should get you started and keep you safe.” She added as he asked if this was all he could ever do, and she disagreed strongly.” I have given you the ability to use ALL Magic, and your new body is made for this world, so you have great reflexes and strength as well.” She hinted as he looked surprised.

      “As you travel you will meet others who use Magic and each time you can, if you try and get help, learn new Magic abilities. Work hard and make friends and you will have a wonderful life here.” She added as things got dark, and a second later he opened his eyes and he was still there, asleep under that tree and he sat up and looked and that staff was right there, and he knew it wasn’t really a dream, and he started looking around and off in the distance a wagon was moving away, and he figured that way was as good as any, so he started walking.

      Chapter 2: The Capital

      The wagon disappeared after a while and James stopped for a breath when 4 men rushed him from the woods nearby. They had knives and swords and he fired a fire blast into one who dropped his weapon and tried to pat the fire out that took over his shirt.Two others ran in and James dropped to one knee and hit the ground with his staff and called ‘Freeze’ and they stopped dead in their tracks not 7 feet from him and their leader saw the way this was going, and he called retreat, and as James stood up the ice disappeared and the two men ran towards the woods screaming that they’d get him later for this, and he left out a deep breath as someone applauded from behind him, and he whipped around pointing his staff as a young woman in a suit of armor yelled ‘whooaa..’ and he stopped short.

      “I’m a castle guard, sent out to patrol this road. I was riding this way when I saw you getting attacked, so I tied my horse to that tree and was coming to help.” She said putting her sword away, as James smiled and stood the staff beside him. “your pretty good for someone so young, how old are you anyways?” She asked as James said 15 and she nodded seriously.

      “Where are you from, I don’t remember seeing anyone using both fire and ice at once.” She added as his mouth opened and out came a story of how he was from a far away village and he was whisked here by some strange power, and she looked surprised.

      “More Sorcery then...” She whispered, as he just shrugged and said he didn’t even know where he was, or where the nearest town is. “I can see you get to the Capital. I’d have to report this attack and finding you here anyways, so come with me.” She said and they both got on her horse and away they went, and soon a massive city appeared and she smiled and said ,’welcome to Atlantia’ and he smiled and thanked her.

      They went to the stables and put her horse away and he followed her to the main square and into a tall building that housed the Kings Mages and she introduced him to Glen, the Kings personal Mage and leader of the Magic Division of the National Army.

      “You found him by the side of the road fighting bandits?” he asked as she agreed.

      “His skills are impressive, they never stood a chance.” She said as he looked doubtful but looked James up and down.

      “Out back boy...” he said and they all followed him into a practice area where 3 other young people were using magic on dummies there. “There...destroy that.” he pointed as James aimed and a fire blast hit it and burned it to ash in a second and he nodded seriously and mentioned that he certainly had the affinity for Fire then, and she reminded him James used ice too, and he huffed out loud thinking it.

      “Freeze me then..” Glen said stepping out as the rest of the students stopped to see what was happening as James said he didnt want to hurt anyone, as a few laughed he could even say that.

      “Trust me, I’ll be fine.” Glen added as James agreed, and bent down and froze the ground for 10 meters and Glen looked a little surprised that he couldn’t move his feet for a second, as James left him go. “Hmm, that was impressive...” he hinted as the knight smiled and said she told him so, and he looked less than pleased she rubbed his nose in it.

      “He has 2 affinities at once??” One young woman asked softly, as another said he’d never heard of such a thing, as they all agreed.

      “Where are you from boy?” Glen asked as the words came tumbling out and he realized that the story had already been made and it said that he lived in Atlas, a small town high in the Albatross mountains and that his Master taught him these 2 because he said thats all he’d ever need, and Glen looked surprised saying he never heard of such a town, and James said that he was out practicing and a storm came up suddenly and he passed out from the cold and awoke here along the road, and everyone’s mouths dropped to hear it and Glen ordered them back to work, and the knight away.

      “I’ll see to this.” he mentioned as the knight walked away all smiles and James waved and thanked her for her help. “I am the King’s Royal Mage, and this is my school.” Glen told James after she left.”Since its obvious you’re a Mage yourself, you can stay here and take classes with me until we find a way to return you to your home.” he offered as James agreed, and his training and adventures in the Capital started that day.

    2. #2
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Oh by the way..this is a book length story.

      Chapter 3: Training Begins

      Skilled or not... James was the newest student... and as such was on everyone’s dirt list. He got all the cleanup duties and if someone needed something from town after training stopped for the day, you can be sure he got the job of running to get it.

      He pretty much knew what was going on, and during one trip he got dragged into an ally by two men who demanded his cash, and he admitted he had none, but they weren’t taking no for an answer.

      “Your money or your life...” One man said and dove at him, dagger in hand... but for an instant everything went into slow motion... and James just stepped aside as the man slowly went by, and James reached out and gave him a chop to the back of the neck, and he went down like a ton of bricks, to his partners immediate astonishment. Seeing James now turn on him he bolted, leaving his friend behind, and James dragged him out into the main square and it didn’t take more than a second to get the attention of a guard, who listened to the story and gave James a big pat on the back, as the man came to and started screaming for help.

      “Oh we’ve been watching for you two...” the guard said, grabbing the man roughly, as the man looked faint, “and believe me you’ll tell us all we want to know before very long too.” He said and dragged the man away while James went back to finishing his work and returned to the dorms.

      But reports need made, and the next day James was called from afternoon practice to tell his story again to the Captain of the Guards, as Glen listened in and slowly turned to his other students who were blissfully looking all around to avoid his eyes.

      “You captured one of the most wanted in our territory.” The man said as people looked surprised.” So here..ten Gold for you as a bounty, and ten more if we find his partner, they have been harassing our citizens for months and now we finally have them.” he said and waved as he walked out and Glen gave James a big pat on the back for a good job, and went out back for a second to have a talk with his other students, who snuck out during the meeting.

      “I understand razing a new student, but by now you all can see he’s special, so no more.If you want beef cabobs for dinner...go get your own.” He grumped, and James’s initiation was finally over.

      But this was the first time James had cash of his own, and he knew from doing jobs for others that 2 silver could buy a good meal and 10 silver a nice shirt. Oatmeal mush sold for 10 copper a bowl and he ate his breakfast a few times for that much with cash he got from doing odd jobs around the Academy. So 10 Gold was a nice amount here and he wondered what he should get with it. He mentioned he might need some new cloths, but no one said much about it because they all wore the same dark blue robes with white trim, and since they got in trouble for their tricks, they weren’t too happy with him right now.

      But the one girl did mention to Glen that James was, officially a student, and Glen admitted he was, so before James went running off wasting his cash Glen had the official ceremony the next day of giving James his first Magicians robes, and now he looked the same as everyone else and soon they all started laughing and getting along better, and Glen saw it from the shadows and smiled.

      When James finally ask Glen himself, he was ready.

      “A new staff, or wand whichever you prefer.” he said seriously, as James looked surprised.” That’s a beginners staff, and frankly, I think it’s holding you back. It’s not strong enough to carry all the power you possess.” he admitted as James looked surprised.

      “Where can I get a better one, and for what price?” James asked as Glen told him to go to Helen’s Place, a Magical Arts shop downtown, and tell her he sent him, and he agreed and went to see what she had.

      He walked in to see the walls covered in great looking things, all Magical Devices of one kind or another. A nice looking middle aged lady came out from the back and asked what he needed,and saw his robes immediately and smiled.

      “I’m new student of Master Glen’s and he suggested I need a better staff.” James added as he handed her his and she checked it out and agreed. The workmanship was decent but the crystal in the end was tiny and not the best grade, and she had James come in the back and she had a range back there and she had him fire his at a target and see what it did, then she had him try a few more, and slowly they got better until he could waste nearly everything without thinking, and she looked surprised as James asked what this one cost, and she felt like making a big profit, but Glen would have her hide... and not in the way she liked.

      “ 5 Gold..” She said without a pause and James thought about it, and looked it over for a minute. The wood was darker and more well done than his old one and the crystal was bigger and a nicer color and Glen himself thought he needed a better one so....he said he was going to trade in his old one on it.

      “Mine and 3 Gold..” James offered, and she looked surprised he would dicker with her over price.

      “Yours and 4 Gold, it’s barely a starter staff after all.” she insisted, and after a minute to think he agreed and the deal was done.

      “Make sure you tell Glen I gave you a good deal, and I want to see him soon.” She hinted as she put his old one on one rack by the wall, and James walked out smiling that he knew why Glen sent everyone here, he might well be priming his own retirement account doing it.

      The next day when James started practicing things went flying. And Glen had to stop him saying now that he had a better staff he needed to learn to control it better.

      “Instead of throwing everything you have against a lowly little target, hold back a little, its not necessary any more.” Glen insisted, and after a few tries James could knock down targets without putting dents in the stone wall behind them again. “Better, learn to use only as much power as you need, don’t waste it on low level targets.” He said as James agreed, and soon they were all working again, and a few asked James how he got so strong, and he just shrugged, saying this was just who he was, and Glen sent a message to the King saying he might have found a diamond in the rough, and he knew that James would be someone special someday.

      Chapter 4: First Quest

      While training went on, Glen and the entire castle and even King John, tried unsuccessfully to find mention of the town Atlas high in some mountains somewhere. It became abundantly clear that...if it existed...James was chosen and sent here by some higher power.

      “Impossible!” One Royal Advisor screamed, as Glen left him know in no uncertain terms that James had been around for 3 months now, and had shown improvements in both fire and water magic that would take another student 2 years to learn, and with that the man sat back down and looked a little frightened, as even the King nodded seriously.

      “If I may....” Glen heard as Phillip, the Royal Magician and Guardian of the King himself stood and looked deadly serious for a second. “I have been working on this idea for weeks now, since Master Glen asked me to help, and so I have. The story the young man tells of his homeland sounds suspiciously like the Legend of the City of Shangri La...a Legend of a town high in the mountains... surrounded by a barrier that keeps it safe and hidden. The Magic he mentions that grabbed and sent him here is beyond anything we possess, or any other Kingdom I have ever heard of. And young students starting out in their first year...studying 2 skills at once...that is something I personally have never even thought was possible.” He said seriously, as Glen agreed and even the King looked shocked.

      “His first day with me he froze my feet to the ground in an instant. It took me a second to get free but I made it look as easy as possible, which it was not.” Glen added as many looked surprised.” Since then he has learned a great deal and gotten better equipment too. I’ll be damned if I let him freeze me again for some test, I’d be seriously worried about it for sure.” He mentioned as the King saw how much James really had improved.

      “How much longer can you keep him busy?” King John Anderson asked as Glen laughed saying he could always think of something, but right now James was stronger than half the Royal Guards, as everyone there either looked shocked, or laughed like it was a joke.

      “I suggest we test him...” The one old man chipped in as Glen asked him how.” Send him along on escort missions for a while. We already send knights and Wizards along to protect convoys, we can say its for his training.” He mentioned as even the King thought it sounded like a good idea.

      “It would give him a chance to see our world a little more and learn more about us too.” Glen added, and it seemed like a done deal.

      “If he was sent here for some grand reason, then this might make it more clear.” Phillip added and everyone agreed and James was chosen to go on a few escort missions between cities to learn from real pros, and he thought that was great, and the knights and Magicians in service of the King all watched to see how this experiment went.

      “You mentioned ‘our world’” Phillip whispered later,” you don’t think??” he hinted as Glen just smiled and walked away.

      James was assigned to a convoy of weapons going to the next city over, the city of Haskell.It had 4 wagons, one full of armored knights and guards, and the rest full of weapons and food and water. It would take 2 days round trip, and Glen left James know he was a trainee here, and that the lady Magician was his superior and he agreed to listen to her on the trip.

      He met them and got introduced early the next morning, and he climbed inside a wagon with the rest of the security people and off they went, bouncing along towards the next town.

      “I don’t care what your affinity is...so don’t start bragging.” The Magician, called Rachel said seriously before James had a chance to say a word,” you’re my responsibility on this trip so sit back and be quiet.” She said, as James just smiled and agreed.

      “If we’re lucky neither one of you will be needed this trip.” The knights leader, Lt. Frank Holdings said, and Rachel agreed that would be nice.

      But that wasn’t going to happen, as the third hour passed a group of mounted men ran up and started shooting arrows into the canvas along the sides of the wagon, as Rachel pulled out her wand and a great wind blew around them as the convoy stopped and everyone jumped out under cover of the dust storm.

      “You...stay in the wagon unless called on!” She screamed and James just sat back and watched as the men circled them and arrows got more accurate and Rachel kept them busy trying to blind their horses so they would need to stop and let the knights get a crack at them.

      It looked to James like these men were making a lot of noise for nothing, then it struck him. They might be doing it on purpose, and he lifted the canvas along the one side to look further away and saw nothing then back to the other side and off in the distance he saw a group of men running towards them as silently as possible, using the horsemen as a decoy.

      “Foot soldiers to the left!” James called, as the knights looked around and had to run to get ready on that side, and the horsemen saw the jig was up for now and they rode to join them.

      “Good call...” Rachel said smiling,” maybe you’re not worthless after all.” She hinted as James thanked her for saying so, as at least one knight chuckled from it. But Rachel had been firing wind storms one after the other and now with all the enemies getting together her strength was starting to weaken, and she could feel it.

      “What is your affinity?” She asked softly, and even the knight leader could tell she was slowing down, as James smiled and asked what she thought they needed, and she screamed at him for being stupid in the face of the enemy.

      “Fire...” he whispered and she nodded happily then.

      “Offensive Magic, we can use that.” She hinted as he agreed.

      “Stand by me and not a step further.” She demanded as he agreed and joined her.” Do whatever you can to support the knights, this looks like its going to be a big battle.” She hinted as James agreed. There seemed to be at least 20 men on foot and another 5 on horseback. They got closer and closer and at the last minute the horses ran in, but Rachel hit them again with a sandstorm, and two men fell from their horses and the third was forced to stop because even the horse couldn’t see.

      “Get them, quickly!” the knights screamed, as men ran in and dragged them down before their friends got this far. By now Rachel was panting pretty badly and James saw it, she was digging in her bag for something, probably a potion to boost her strength, so James took that to mean she needed help for now and he stepped up beside her and called ‘Fire Blast’ and a wave ran out and stopped the charging soldiers in their tracks.

      “Nice... by us some time...” The leader called, as his men finished the last of the horsemen and fell back to regroup.

      Another blast, this one more concentrated and longer range, and 3 soldiers screamed as their arms and hands were burned and they dropped their weapons and fell back.

      “You’re reducing their numbers,” Rachel said softly,” that will help a lot,keep it up.” She admitted as she chugged down her potion and waited for it to take effect. But off to the side James saw a man kneeling down and aiming at her with a bow as he jumped in front of her and called ‘ice wall’ and a wall a foot thick rose from the ground and the arrow bounced off, as Rachel’s face looked shocked.

      “You said you were Fire user!” She screamed, as James looked over his shoulder and smiled.

      “I am, aren’t I?” He asked as she looked like she’d start smoking from anger any minute.

      “ 2 powers in one student??” The Knight leader screamed, as James said they deserved nothing less, and even Rachel smiled at that crack. “One of those would sure be nice over here too.” he added as several other arrows came running in and bounced off their armor, as James pulled up a second wall for their defense.

      “Who the Hell are these guys? First they decoy us then run in screaming, now sitting out there sniping us with arrows.” Frank screamed as James admitted they were really flexible for bandits, and everyone agreed.

      “Well I’m tired of it...” Rachel screamed and James could see her potion was kicking in as she grabbed a pile of stones nearby and threw them with considerable force and several more men went down screaming. But just then a whistling sound was heard in the distance , and the soldiers turned and ran as the knights stood from behind their protective wall and cheered they had held out long enough.

      “Those were not normal bandits.” The knight leader said as Rachel agreed, and they all loaded back up and rushed to their destination, and a good nights sleep before the return trip.

    3. #3
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      Chapter 5: Insurrection...and Decisions

      Frank went straight to the message area when they arrived and a bird was dispatched to the castle. King Anderson got the message a little while later and he looked upset as he went to his bedroom too.

      “The Knights of the Black Cross.” He whispered as he looked tired.” What are you up to now brother?” he asked to no one in particular, and he laid down to get some sleep...if he could.

      When their father died there were three children to settle with. John was the oldest, Aran next and Sally who was happily living with her husband, a Noble in the Eastern Region. So the two boys needed dealt with and the elders declared John the new ruler since he was the oldest child. But Aran declared John too easy going and soft, saying the kingdom would come to ruin under him. But his words fell on deaf ears, and to settle things John gave him his own lands, down south, a large peninsula that Aran loved. He always liked the ocean and he agreed and he went there and set up his own little kingdom, and John went on running the main lands he got from his father.

      But Aran was nothing if not persistent, and little by little he made trouble for John knowing he would turn his back and let him get away with it, like having ‘settlers’ move across his northern boarder and take lands no one else was using. First a hundred yards here, then a mile there. ‘Only to the river’ or ‘just to the western ridge’ until by now Aran ruled over nearly 1/3 of the original kingdom and John now 2/3.

      And though John’s advisors complained all the time, John was sure Aran would get his fill of arguing eventually and they would rule together, but not a single person thought that was true, and now, maybe not even John himself.

      “Damn it, weapons shipments now? Aran why cant you just grow up?” John whispered and rolled over and tried to get some sleep.

      But the convoy didn’t hear any of this, and after a good nights sleep they were loaded with materials for the return trip and made it safely back well before nightfall.

      James returned to the dorms and had to report to Glen, who looked sad his first trip worked out like this.

      “Did they figure out who it was?” he asked as James said something about finding a medal or something on one soldier and Glen nodded and waved him away. James went to get some dinner and Glen went to the castle to see what really was going on.

      “The Black Cross? Really?” He asked as John nodded agreement.” Your Majesty, what do you think King Aran is planning now? You left him have all the lands he ever demanded.” Glen hinted as John nodded silently and finally said that ‘maybe that was the problem’ as Glen looked sad for him.

      “It looks like I should have stopped him a long time ago, now he feels its easy to do whatever he wants... and this attack just proves that.” John said as all his advisors looked sad too, after trying a dozen times to get John to see it... he might have finally come around.

      “A weapons shipment, you don’t think?” Phillip asked as even John nodded agreement.

      “You don’t need a lot of weapons to rule, only for war.” John said as many there agreed.” Make sure we have extra security on all shipments after this and double the Magic users. He’ll not get his weapons for free.” John declared as he ordered a message sent to Aran saying this was the last straw, and he either stopped this foolishness or John would destroy his military one man at a time.

      And when Aran got the message he wasn’t upset... he was happy... and his own advisors mentioned they really weren’t ready for a major war, as he smiled and agreed.

      “It looks like big brother is finally growing a pair. Good for him. Too late, but better late than never.” He declared and laughed and he ordered messages sent to all his allies saying John threatened him and he needed more men, and the buildup towards the next civil war started that day.

      In the next week messages came from 3 other lands asking John what he was thinking. Aran was telling everyone John threatened to attack him and John wasn’t surprised. So he sent messages back explaining it all and several refused to get involved either way in what was clearly a family squabble.

      The work went on and convoys got through, with some difficulty, and more dead soldiers wore or were carrying Aran’s State Seal. So it looked like talking was too late, and John ordered more soldiers trained and bought more horses for them, to get ready for the first big push coming out of Aran’s lands towards the Capital.

      But during all this James remembered being told that he was to travel and work and learn new things and when he asked the other students to show him their magic spells, Glen stopped him saying he knew 2 now and that was enough.

      So now with all this talk of a civil war, James felt the urge to do some traveling, and he told Glen that, and he looked sad and a little shocked.

      “I cant stop you from leaving... but... I was hoping you’d stick around and train some more.” Glen added as James laughed out loud.

      “Everything I’ve been doing is starter stuff since that first week. You never showed me more than a half dozen spells to improve on and I mastered all those.” James said as Glen looked away sadly.” I want to see, travel, learn new things. There’s a whole world out there that I want to see. You all will be fine here I’m sure.” he said as Glen finally agreed and the next day James bought a horse and some food and walked out of town to begin his journey, as both Glen and Phillip watched him go from the castle, wondering when they might see his type again.

      Chapter 6: Jobs and Friends

      James rode much of the day, stopping to let his horse get a drink and eat some grass while James had a snack himself. He was many miles away now just wandering aimlessly, since he had no real idea where he was going. The map he bought in town showed him traveling North and there were towns and even one city further up there and he wandered roughly that direction.

      He rode along a really nice stream for a little while and saw a older man sitting fishing with a nice stringer full by his side. He stopped to talk and after a while he paid the man to teach him, and by evening his new skill was taking shape and he had 3 nice sized fish over his campfire for dinner.

      “Free food never hurts.” he whispered and got some sleep and by evening the next day he was getting near a larger town and as he rode over a little hill he saw two men dragging a young woman, screaming and yelling towards the brush, so he rushed in and nearly ran one man down with his horse, and jumped off his mount and aimed his staff at them as the men jumped back looking shocked to see him there.

      “Do not fear, I will save you from these devils.” James yelled grabbing the lady by the arm and dragging her to his side as her mouth fell open and she looked a little more worried now than before.

      “Wait... you misunderstand...” one man said as the gem on James’s staff glowed brighter and they turned and ran into the brush and out of sight.

      “ There...” he said softly, letting go of her arm, “ You’re safe now.” He said smiling, as the lady looked astounded that he had shown up just when he did, and after a second she gave James a really dirty look that he didn’t understand.

      “Do you know what you’ve done? I wont be able to find companions for months after this!” She screamed and slapped him across the face as he looked shocked.”It’s bad enough my father wont let men into our house, now he’s hiring soldiers to follow and stop me out here too??” She screamed while stomping and looking like she might hit him again.

      “I have no idea what you’re saying, I’m new around here and I have never met either you or your family before this.” James explained as she slowed down a bit and saw that maybe her luck just wasnt running well today.

      “Well you ruined my weekend so take responsibility for it.” She screamed as James said he barely knew her, and he’d never think of such a thing, as she burst out laughing.” I mean...you chased away my escorts... now you owe me a ride home at least.” She mentioned as he agreed to that, and a minute later they were moving along the old road with her giving him instructions.

      “I see you’re a Wizard, where are you from?” She asked as James told her his story and she looked even more impressed after that. “ So they dropped you off at the Capital and you stayed until you got enough training to survive on your own?” She asked as James just laughed and said that might well be true.

      “I knew you were a bit odd...but I had no idea.” She whispered and he pretended not to hear. “Turn a right here, thats my home up on the hill.” She said and James saw a huge mansion, with stone walls and a big black metal gate, and knew now that she could afford escorts if that was the only way to find men.

      “OK, Wizard, drop me off here.” She said as she slid down and some soldiers there gave him an odd look and seemed ready to ask why they were together.

      “James...” he said as he turned to go and she smiled and said ‘OK James, ty for the ..err...rescue...’ and she laughed and was let in and James saw she wasnt giving him her name either and he just laughed and went on about his way, now deciding since he was this close to stop in town for the night.

      It was a nice place much smaller than the Capital, but that was to be expected. His robes got a little attention and when he stopped to eat at a booth along one of the market place streets a couple men asked if he was looking for work and he asked what they had in mind.

      “We’re putting together a team for some dungeon crawling, having a Wizard along might come in real handy, what is your specialty?” One man asked as James smiled and said ‘fire...and ice’ and they both looked oddly at him, so to explain further he put out his right hand and a flame shut up and at the same time his left hand held a snowball, and a minute later the market erupted in applause as James realized this was considered a ‘trick’ here and he got a few coins for showing them all.

      “Two affinities at once, and those robes show you trained in the Capital didn’t you? The older man asked as James agreed, saying he trained under Master Glen, and ohs and ahs were heard and that settled it... they ask him to join them on the spot.

      They gathered their things and he followed them to a large hole in the ground, not really a cave so much as a huge pit, and they snuck down one path and when they got to the bottom then a smaller opening was seen along the one side.

      “Wolves live here, dozens of them, and the local farmers are putting up a bounty to thin them out. 20 silver for every dead dire wolf.” He was told as he nodded and one man stopped them from getting any closer as he dug around inside his bag and came out with a ball wrapped in a rag and when he opened it the smell was terrible, and everyone turned away.

      “ Don’t laugh its the best bait for Dire Wolves.” he whispered and tossed it towards the tunnel and after a minute growls were heard and then 4 wolves ran out looking all around.

      The first one went down with an arrow in its head, the second was attacked and smashed with a large hammer, and James froze the third into a ice sickle as everyone laughed. Then the noise caused more to come out and before they settled that, a few more. As the big man mentioned that the bait was working too well, too fast, and James saw them getting behind.

      “Fire Wall..” he called, stepping forward to protect his teammates, as a wall of flames rushed in and took out three at once and the archer laughed, saying James didn’t need them at all.

      “Leave enough evidence for us to take to the Guild hall.” The other man said as James laughed and said OOPS and they all got a chuckle.

      They did pretty well considering, and when no more wolves came running out they gathered the evidence of what they had done. Ears first then if none existed... after James burned them off...feet and they had enough to more than cover the mission and they talked and laughed all the way back to town and when they entered the Guild Hall James got introduced around and after some explaining he too got paid for his kills...after they officially signed him up as a Guild member that is.

      After they got paid they took him to the bar where they bragged and told their stories and the big man James worked with today slapped him across the back every time he told about his Affinities and how well they worked, as eyes popped all around and one older man with white hair asked if James came to sign up with the Adventurers Guild, and after a second to think, James agreed.

      “Don’t you worry, Mabel over there wouldn’t pay him until he signed up. Now our town has 2 Sorcerers, and that’ll help us all a lot.” he bragged as a few agreed but James reminded them he was a Wizard...not a Sorcerer...and one man asked what the difference was.

      “Why...I’m better looking of course.” James bragged, as the entire room laughed and someone bought him another drink.

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      Chapter 7: Settling In

      In the next week James went on two more jobs, one alone. He got known for getting things done and even though some mentioned to him at the Guild Hall that he was their second Wizard, he had yet to meet the first.

      “She’ll be popping in here any time now.” The one lady that worked for the Guild mentioned when James asked, and he looked impressed as she whispered that Sara had the affinity for ‘travel’ so she could just pop in and out from long distances in a matter of seconds, and was their main person for sending messages vast distances and getting returns faster than any bird could.

      Knowing that, James decided he wanted to meet her, and kept a close eye on the Guild Hall waiting for her to make an appearance. By now he had made a few friends and finally one asked him why he was working in his ‘dress’ uniform instead of something else.

      “These robes are gifts from the Master and many who leave his side take them off and keep them for a keepsake of their time there.” He heard and it did make some sense.

      “I gotta wear something, the city guards would frown on me going commando around town.” James mentioned as many there laughed.

      “Take him to Judy’s place she has cloths for adventurers.” one lady said and everyone agreed and James got dragged to a nice little shop a block over with lots of different types of cloths by two friends he worked with before, some cloths here looked nice and some were heavily made in bright colors while others just looked brown like the cloths he had before.

      “I see we have a new adventurer here.” James heard as an older lady walked up smiling, and he told her people thought he should get better cloths for adventuring, and not ruin his uniform, and she agreed.

      “A Wizard huh, hmm, I do have some robes that are not so flashy for working in, some a little shorter too, just in case you ever need to run...you know...for a second or two.” She hinted with a wink, as the men with him laughed.

      “What about something with some cut resistance to it?” One man mentioned and she went to a rack and got a light brown robe off of it,it was a tad shorter than his old one and had a wide, dark brown belt that was heavily made.

      “Cut resistant, burn resistant and with the wide belt, adds some more defense around the waist from leather armor.” She said handing it to James to look at. He had had foxes and even wolves trying to bite through his robe so something a little more protective might be nice, and with the difference between the light colored material and the dark belt it looked pretty good.

      “Try it on, go ahead.” She hinted as James looked a little embarrassed saying he only had shorts on under his and she laughed saying not to worry at her age she’d see it all, as the men there laughed loudly.

      James turned his back and took off his robes and laid them to the side, as the lady got a real good look at him as the men there saw. He then put the new robe on, and while it has twice the protection of his uniform, it weighed even less. It was shorter, just down to the top of his boots and the arms seemed just the right length to fit him and he nodded he liked it.

      “How much? Remember I’m new here and not rich yet.” James teased, as she just laughed at him.

      “Three Gold,” She said as one man gave her a dirty look and she gave it right back.” trust me its worth it!” She said seriously, as James thought for a minute then counted out her money and left carrying his uniform robe under his arm. ‘I’ll get this cleaned and keep it somewhere’ he thought and this new robe had another advantage, on hot days it wouldn’t be so hot either and he felt he did get a decent deal then considering.

      And after he had gone the lady sent a message to the castle saying she had sold a Class 3 Wizards robe to one of Glens students, and in such a way Master Glen kept track of where his old students were...just in case they were ever needed.

      “James made it to Cartilage so far.” He whispered to Phillip when they were sitting having a friendly drink. “That’s an Adventurers town, with lots to do, so he wont be starving anytime soon.” he added as Phillip agreed and Glen felt good that James was still improving himself, and while the official robes of the school were tough, they certainly couldn’t out work a class 3 robe made by one of his best friends. James was never more safe and if what he heard was true, he had made friends, and that too is important for his future.

      “What about Aran’s army?” Glen asked softly as Phillip looked tired and nodded saying that they were coming, at least 500 strong, and Glen said they better enjoy themselves while they had the chance and they both agreed.

      Chapter 8: Teaching and Learning

      James had been here about a month now and his friends...and their friends... made sure he felt at home. He did a dozen small missions and made some decent cash and with that bought himself a pair of protective gloves the same color as the robe and one man sold him a pair of boots he looted somewhere saying that starter boots were OK for walking around, but some places he would be working had snakes and other small animals, and getting bitten by any of them would ruin your day, or maybe even a week.

      James felt good stopping here for a while since he learned a lot here from people with more experience. His new boots and gloves added a lot to his safety and after one raid he found a small brass dagger, and so he added that to his belt on the left side. Wizards are good at ranged fighting, but get in close and its a different story, and so after getting this loot item he purposely hacked a few animals with it that got too close, and got some experience with knives as well as Magic.

      He still hadnt seen the other Mage , obviously they were keeping her busy, but one day while he was getting a meal at the inn, one big man asked if he was busy and he agreed he wasnt.

      “I’m putting together a team for a dungeon run. Its going to be a tough one but the pays good too, interested?” He asked as James agreed and finished his meal and went to join them.

      But this time there were 2 mages, and James got introduced to the other mage in town, Janice, and she shook his hand saying having some ranged attack skills in the group was going to help and he thanked her for saying so.

      “We’re going here.” The big man said, laying out a map for all to see.” Its a group of caves run by creatures of all kinds. So we’ll go slow. We need to take out everything we can without close combat if possible, so thats your job James and Stan. Then if we get caught and ganged up on escape will be your job.” he said as Janice agreed.

      “Once we get to the main chamber we loot the chest there and get out. It’s a high paying job that pays each of us 4 Gold, so lets not waste the chance.” he said as they all agreed and they started down into the caves watching everywhere at once.

      Stan was an archer and so he and James took the lead. After maybe 50 yards two dire wolves were seen, and died just as fast, and they moved on. Now 100 yards in there were skeletons, half a dozen and they ran towards them swinging swords and axes, and after a short scuffle they too went down.

      “Good job so far.” The big man commented as everyone agreed. “ Nearly half way there.” he said and they rounded a bend in the tunnel to see what looked like an army of undead, but in reality probably 12 or so, blocking their path.

      “Let this to me...” Janice said and after a short incantation a door appeared and as they ran in they came out on the other side, well past that army, and everyone nodded that saved them a lot.

      “Right up ahead, but get ready it’ll be well guarded.” They heard and he wasn’t kidding. Another small army of undead were guarding the chest and arrows went flying and fire balls and even the swordsmen ran in to help, and after another battle the place was clear.

      They opened the chest and took what was there, some documents the town needed, and some loot items to sell when they got out. Janice helped with that too and in a minute they were walking into town to get paid.

      “That was good work.” James mentioned as Janice thanked him.” Can you teach me to do that too? It seems really convenient.” He said as she laughed saying she tried to teach several people before but none that she had found yet could learn it.

      “I have faith in my abilities.” he insisted, and she agreed saying she’d change him 2 silver for each lesson, or until he gave up, and he agreed and they sold all their items and got paid and they went out behind the inn and she told him about ‘guiding’ his transport and that if he couldn’t see some place clearly in his mind then he couldn’t transport there.

      “You cant transport to someplace you’ve never seen.” She told him and he nodded seriously.”Now close your eyes and concentrate on a place you’ve been to lately, get a good, clear vision of it in your mind. Then say,’ let me transport to that location.” She said as he closed his eyes and she stepped back waiting, but a doorway did appear, and she looked really surprised as James saw it too and stepped through to the little fishing spot he’d been to outside of town a few times and Janice asked where this was, and he explained and she started looking a little better knowing at least one of her students learned something, and James left her go on thinking that she was a great teacher and a soft voice in his head chuckled.

      That was it for today, and James offered to buy her an ale for the lesson, on top of the silver he owed her, and she agreed. They sat at the counter talking and Janice announced to everyone that James could now transport himself short distances, and the room cheered.

      “Thats what...3 affinities you have now?” One man asked as James agreed, and Janice nearly choked on her drink.

      “ 3??” She screamed, as everyone agreed saying he did Fire, Water, and now Travel. and she looked at him oddly.

      “You’re not a White Mage are you?” She asked seriously, as the room got silent.

      “Whats that?” He asked as she said that in families that contained generations of Mages there was a story of a special person known as the White Mage. Someone who...like a blank piece of paper...could learn anything, as the room oohed and aahd about that, and James looked embarrassed and said he didn’t know anything about that, he just learned fast, and she shrugged and left it go..for now.

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      Chapter 9: Aran and John’s Rivalry

      By now King John and King Aran were at war. Several fights had occurred and many died on both sides. Now with around 350 men left Aran’s General was laying siege to John’s castle, and supplies were not getting in.

      They set up a major camp a few miles away and had tents set up within sight of the castle with guards stopping anyone from getting inside...or out.

      They took turns firing arrows and Magic back and forth just about every day but they couldn’t get in...and John refused to surrender.

      The siege was now in its third week and Glen and Phillip had been in a good number of attacks themselves and were now getting some badly needed sleep. John sent out messages asking anyone who could get there to help, and a few went and were quickly forced back.

      Aran was no fool, he sent professional soldiers with lots of experience and normal adventurers didn’t have much chance against them no matter what the reward offered.

      So thats the way things were. Now a month into the siege and food was running short and essentials like arrows for the troops.The castle had an abundant supply of fresh water, but that alone wouldn’t keep them alive. Glen and his students had skills in making things like biscuits and candy for survival, but not for an army, no matter how hard they tried. And the enemy never left a single person out not even hoping to find some plants and animals nearby. They were really serious about their jobs and John started seeing that Aran was winning when people inside started getting desperate.

      The offers went up, not just to help fight, but to get supplies inside the walls, and it started seeming hopeless when one night a guard saw a glowing doorway just outside the gate and screamed for the officer in charge, and they opened the gate quickly and in ran a wagon loaded with food, fresh fruit, and a wooden box full of arrows, and the guards and soldiers cheered, and even the King heard it and when he looked out, the gate opened again, and the empty wagon ran out, and disappeared.

      “How??” He whispered and got dressed and ran down to see. Glen and Phillip were also there by now and Glen had a letter addressed to him and he looked happier than any time lately.

      “ Cartilage has a Transporter Mage there,” he said smiling,” and its one of ours.” he finished as Phillip laughed out loud saying things had improved seriously and that food could get in now, as Glen reminded them that one man or woman no matter who surely didn’t have enough riches to supply a castle during war, and John announced they’d cover all their expenses, and Glen had him send that message out too, and these supplies got put into storage while they waited on more.

      “Even a wagon a day cant supply the entire army.” John was told and he agreed saying that knowing how bad things were getting having any steady supplies was going to buy them time and thats all he thought they needed, and many there nodded agreement, wither they agreed or not.

      John felt much better now and people could tell, but old soldiers like the General and Glen and Phillip knew one thing he said was true. This only bought them some time. Unless something changed their basic plan was to sit tight and wait, and sooner or later Aran would get tired of that but by then he hoped the army would be too weak to fight, and his men and women were well fed, and had lots of fresh water from the nearby stream, so they would be in top condition when that attack came, and even 350 against 800, if you’re too weak to fight it certainly wouldn’t last long.

      “If only John left us do some raids we could reduce their numbers a little,” Phillip whispered as John returned to his quarters, and the General nodded seriously saying he was still hoping his brother would reconsider and go home. In that respect Aran was right, John was no soldier and just didn’t understand how war worked.

      “We can only do what we are ordered, God help us all.” The General added softly and went back to his Command tent to wait for more news.

      James and his friends got the message a few hours later..any supplies getting in would be paid for in Gold and they nodded saying it was worth it after all. One hunter went out and dragged in 3 nice fat deer, another went to some farmers and got a wagonload of fresh vegetables, and James made a deal with one merchant and bought a big bag full of bandages and salves to add to the pot.

      Now he opened the gate again, and a second later his spotter said the castle gates were open, and in ran another load, and this time a bag of Gold awaited them and the man thanked them and ran back out before his way home closed on him. But now they knew they weren’t forgotten, and moral went up sharply again, and thats something every war needs a boost in from time to time, and the enemy spotters at the guard posts saw it for the first time, and sent a message to their Commander who was positively livid that they got past them.

      Chapter 10: Outside Intervention

      It was becoming quite lucrative sending supplies through, they were getting paid roughly 3x what everything was worth and others wanted to get in on it too. Soon they had a regular supply depot going, James organized everyone into groups, for instance, Hunters and Healers. Then they sent in things... or people to help that stayed behind for a while... and cash came rolling in, as John got messages right from the Healers themselves that James was organizing this entire thing to help his friends there, and John swore when this war was over James and his people would get a special reward from him for their assistance.

      But he still didn’t allow any raids on the enemy camp, and they might well be getting reinforcements, he was told, but he said with the massive walls and good soldiers guarding them they couldn’t get in here in a year much less the time they’ve been here, and General Car walked away sad again that his suggestion had gone unanswered.

      One Healer came back after a few days saying that fighting had all but stopped now as they basically stood there glaring at each other. Archers shot back and forth at anyone close enough to but it had degraded into a standoff and James knew you couldn’t win that way, and why Glen and the others weren’t attacking the enemy. John wouldn’t allow it...he had good people as advisors for sure... but once he set his mind to something that was it, and the only way to get Aran to withdraw was to make it too expensive to stay, and he decided that he’d need to do something about that.

      Midnight the next night things were positively boring both inside the castle and outside at the enemy camp. It had fallen into this rut and when a young wizard walked into one camp and sat down by the fire, a dozen soldiers looked up and their mouths dropped thinking anyone had the nerve to try this, as the hood fell back and James smiled as a few others ran over to see this insane person before he died a terrible death.

      But that wasn’t what happened. James knew what they were thinking but as a crowd gathered to see this oddity he tapped his staff and whispered,’ Hard Freeze’ and everyone and thing within 15 meters froze solid, and never a sound was made.

      “Thats 12...” He whispered and just to make sure everyone knew it, he fired a new round he had just learned into the air. The fireball went up 100 feet, then split into a dozen or more orbs and dropped into the enemy camp and the resounding explosions shook the ground and even the castle guards ran to tell their commanders that something was happening.

      “The enemy camps...on fire!” he screamed as the General ran to the walls to see, and indeed the camp was lit by fires, tents burning probably, and he knew someone hadn’t listened to his Majesty this time.

      The enemy was just as scared, the first soldiers on the scene found burning tents, some holding their food supplies, and a dozen men frozen solid, and the message was sent back ‘we’re under Mage attack’ and the entire camp came alive and hundreds of soldiers got into their armor and ran to meet this new threat... that was by now eating breakfast many miles away.

      Their spys got a message to General Car, a Mage had attacked the enemy camp, 12 men dead and one tent full of food destroyed, and wither he liked it or not he had to report this to the King, but instead of screaming about it John smiled and said ‘thank the Gods’ and the General nearly fainted.

      “But..your orders sir..” He stammered as John sat back smiling saying it was obvious this attack had not been ordered by him, and his conscience was clear, and the General saw the truth... politics at work... and he thanked the King for saying so and went quickly to organize some ‘unofficial’ attacks of his own.

      “Of course,” Glen said as Phillip nodded as well.” after the war these things will be looked at carefully by others all around us. If the King ordered soldiers to their deaths, or enemy soldiers killed, then it might look bad for him. But if it got done behind his back, he could look absolutely clean of guilt and blame, and still the Kingdom would be safe.”

      “Devious thinking...” Phillip whispered as Glen agreed.” I think I’ve underestimated our King, I like it!” he said softly as Glen laughed out loud, and they got ready for something new of their own.

      In an hour it was getting daylight and Glen and Phillip showed up at the gate in leather armor carrying their weapons, a wand and a staff.

      “What are you doing?” The Captain of the Guards asked as the men stopped for a second and Glen said they were ‘going for their morning walk’ and the man looked like he’d throw up thinking it, but he ordered 4 soldiers to ‘walk along for defense’ and the little door beside the main gate opened and they walked out and stopped to breath the fresh morning air, as the guards at the enemy guard post a hundred yards away looked faint, and arrows started raining in on them. But one good gust of wind and they lost their speed and dropped harmlessly to the side of the road.

      “Send an archer out here to gather arrows.” Phillip ordered and a young man ran out and filled his quiver in less than a minute and still had a few more to carry. “lets sit by the fire for a while.” he mentioned and Glen fired a blast that toasted 3 soldiers that fell on the spot and they walked over and sat, now occupying the enemy guard post, and the General heard it and ran to the ramparts to see and asked what was going on and the Captain of the Guard told him the story and the General just smiled.

      “Well, you moron...” He started as the Captain looked faint,” they’re on a walk, so they aren’t going to stay out there, send some men to hold the guard post after they leave.” he said and went for breakfast himself.

      6 more men ran out... 2 archers and 4 knights in armor. They ran over and joined the group by the fire and after a few minutes noises were heard coming up the road and Glen laughed saying they waited just long enough to rest up from the first strike.

      The knights took up a position in a V formation pointing towards the approaching enemy and got behind their shields and waited. Glen watched carefully and asked why they weren’t shooting yet, and half a dozen arrows went flying and 2 enemies got hit. Then he fired a blast that way, and half the first row went down either dead or injured and some turned and ran while their archers took up position on either side of the road firing back. It all took about an hour, and when Glen and Phillip ended their morning walk, 19 enemy soldiers were dead, the friendlies had command of an enemy guard post, and a large number of soldiers in the enemy camp needed healed, all because of a morning walk, that King John pretended he knew nothing about.

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      Chapter 11: Shock and Disgust

      Aran got the message a few hours later and he went into shock. He had told everybody that King John would not order open attacks, his reputation as a kind and gentle King were on the line, and they could just sit there and starve them out, and it had been working.

      His allies were starting to worry. They were told this would be an easy win, and some of John’s lands would be given to them for their part in his loss. But now dozens were dying, and their numbers were dropping again. And worse, John was getting supplies in, and that meant time was no longer on his side.

      He had ‘borrowed’ 200 men to shore up his army for this attack, and had already sent messages saying 50 of his allies were dead, and today, another 12 more.It wouldn’t take long for them to start recalling their people, so Aran sent a message saying attack at will, removing the first order to just sit back and wait. So if nothing got done in the next few days he’d have to declare defeat...something that burned in his stomach just thinking it...and John would have a chance to retaliate on him... possibly even here at his own castle, but even now he didn’t think he would and that he and his family would be forever safe here.

      But something stuck in his craw, these last attacks were not like John at all. He knew him better than anyone, so unless he ordered them, his people would just sit back and watch the Kingdom fall, maybe making some last ditch attempt to safe it near the end, but far too late. But now there were open attacks by Wizards and knights, and not a word from John about it. Could it be that John himself was no longer in charge, or being used as a figurehead for some other, more serious leader? It would be something to think about and if so, Aran’s entire idea about this little war was faulty, and might still come back to bite him in the end.

      James got the word that a second attacked had occurred from the castle. Glen and Phillip joined together and got a few knights to help. Now they controlled one guard post outside the castle and they were holding it. The enemy wouldn’t let that stand for long and James knew it. He put together a raid party of himself, Janice, and three young adventurers that used ranged weapons, and around noon they stepped through a door of his making to a spot behind the enemy camp where he jumped in before.

      Once there they were covered by brush and trees, but close enough to see and attack if they wanted to. The camp was a mess, people running everywhere and in the distance a fight was going on, a big one.Obviously Aran didnt take the new strategy well, and now he released his army to get on with the attack.

      Janice tapped James on the shoulder and pointed, there, 50 years away were at least a dozen friendly soldiers, tied and sitting together on the ground being guarded by 4 enemy soldiers.

      “prisoners..” He whispered as she agreed, and he waved for them to follow and the archers took out the guards and they rushed in to release them to join them. The soldiers thanked them for the rescue, and gathered weapons from all around them and off the dead soldiers too. Now they declared they were ready, and with James and his group they rushed the back of the attacking enemy that had the front gate of the castle blocked.

      Once they got in range they hid as well as they could in high grass in the field and James ordered the archers to snipe anyone they felt that could easily hit, and 2 enemy archers went down a minute later. So sneaky and quiet was the attack that it took several minutes before anyone noticed, and by then James threw a fire blast into them and a dozen men were burned instantly as the enemy commander saw they had a new threat, and ordered their rear quarter guarded as some fell back from the main fight.

      “Something’s happening..” The Captain of the Guards screamed as General Car himself turned to see a wall of flame hit the enemy from behind,and his spyglass showed at least a dozen men behind them now and they were forced to split their forces to defend their rear flank.

      Glen looked that way too and through his glass he saw the little group and smiled. ‘so they came back’ he whispered and their timing couldn’t have been better.

      “Don’t give up!” He screamed as men and women looked his way.” We have reinforcements attacking from the rear!” he screamed and even without a glass people could see fires in the enemy camp again, as black smoke rolled up into the clear sky.

      “That’s it! “ The General yelled,” Attack!” And he ordered the gate open and every able bodied soldier out, and he led them into battle as Phillip and Glen showered their powers down on the enemy, and their commander saw they were stuck between two forces, and turned to run back to their camp.

      But another wall hit them and many died or were burned badly. Then a wall of wind from behind stirring up dust and blinding them. It went on like this for a while and the enemy never made it back to their camp as their commander finally surrendered after getting cut to ribbons from both sides. General Car took the remaining soldiers prisoner, and as they rushed back inside the castle, the enemy General was speechless in his tent back at the main base.

      He knew this wasn’t what he had planned, and to see large numbers of forces rush out of the castle after all this time...well he just couldn’t believe it. King John would never take that chance, never, and he sent a bird immediately back saying their attack failed and their forces were cut in two, and he waited on the message he knew was coming..’return home’ because now that a different Commander was in charge, they could muster all their remaining forces and march on the enemy camp any time...and win.

      The message was exactly what he thought, and he was so sure he had half the camp torn down and packed away before it got there. Now they rushed to finish and started home as fast as their horses and wagons would go. James and his Team watched silently from the bush, and smiled and as the enemy started their retreat they walked out onto the road and smiled and walked to the castle, as General Car and Glen and his forces watched them walking up.

      “The enemy has withdrawn.” James called as a cheer went up,and the gates opened and the soldiers got to return home, and Glen gave James a huge handshake saying he taught him well, and everyone there laughed.

      “That last attack cut them in two.” James mentioned as Glen agreed.” Aran will be spending a lot of time and money replacing his troops and well as paying big fines to his allies for a long time to come over their losses.” he mentioned as even General Car agreed, and they got a message a minute later from the King. He wanted them in his throne room at once, and General Car looked like he was going to get a real chewing out as they all walked in. But John thanked them for protecting him and his kingdom, and he asked James and his team what they wanted for their help, and some got Gold, some just a commendation from the King, and James said he did it to help friends, but since everyone knew he wasn’t from here the King gave him the title of Baron, and official citizen of Atlantia, and now James had a real hometown to return to any time he wished.

      Chapter 12: Recognition and a Permanent Home

      James thanked the King for the award, and his official title as a nobleman. But as he turned to go King John reminded him he had a home here now, and he wanted to see him around more often, and James smiled and agreed and stepped back through that doorway to Cartilage and disappeared.

      A second later John felt a hand on his shoulder and Cherry, his middle daughter was standing there... looking to be in awe.

      “Was that him just now?” She asked as John agreed saying that was their newest Noble, and he set a small piece of land aside for him for his own in a small valley nearby,and Cherry said she was really surprised someone so young had such power, and Glen heard it and bowed saying he was still learning, and that he might take his place one day, and she seemed to take quite an interest in the newest Nobleman, as John saw, and he smiled and decided to watch and see what happened.

      James had land now, and a title, and his friends weren’t going to let him forget it, even though he tried.

      “Why live in an inn when you can have an entire house to yourself?” Got mentioned as James reminded them that he didn’t even know where it was yet and there certainly wasn’t a house there, and because he had never seen it, he could not transport there.

      “You MUST go see it then, it might be a desert.” one old man scolded... as many laughed... there weren’t any deserts for hundreds of miles.

      “I guess, but having a house made is going to be really expensive.” he added as one man said that James himself could help cut costs, and he taught him how to magically log trees and cut blocks of rock into bricks, and by the end of the day James had a rudimentary knowledge of woodworking and stonecutting.

      “Use Transport, you can cut trees and send them right to the construction site, saving time and hard work.” He heard as he admitted once he got organized he could do that, and a few offered to help him for a day, and he agreed and thanked them and they rode out the next morning, and were sitting by a babbling brook 8 feet wide by noon, looking up and down a little valley, and smiling.

      “Lots of fresh water,” One man said and got off and tested it saying it was clean and sweet.”Lots of animals too, by all these tracks.” he added as he got back up on his horse.

      “Looks like a nice place James, you could have done a lot worse.” But James wasn’t listening, he turned and slowly rode a few minutes upstream and got off and looked around, then he got a big stick and carefully stuck it in the ground saying right there was going to be his home.

      “In that case,” One young man said, he got off and ‘witched for water’ using a forked stick and after walking back and forth a few times the stick turned sharply down, and he took his foot and made a deep dent there, saying thats his well, and James thanked him for the help. He got another stick and stuck it there with a bit of rag flying from it so it would be easy to find and they pointed to some woods nearby saying all the wood he’d need was probably right there, and they rode over and James and his carpentry friend dropped a few trees and magically turned them into lumber before everyones eyes.

      The one hill had a sheer rock face along the stream made of what looked like granite or some other rock, and with one shot James dropped tons of it, and he and his stonecutter friend turned that pile into 30 large cut stones that he was told could be used for the foundation. He then concentrated hard for a minute and opened a door and then slid it across with his staff, and the pile disappeared as one man further away said he got it, and James walked over to see it right where he planned, beside 50 pieces of lumber they made that day too.

      “Its not enough to build much, certainly not for a Nobleman.” The one man said as James just laughed.

      “There will never be a castle here, count on it.” he declared as one man said a good woman might change his mind about that, and they all laughed. “Its getting late you need a ride home?” James asked as they agreed that would be nice, and they got on their horses, and James looked around at the piles of materials and nodded, ‘got it’ he whispered and a door opened and they all rode through, and James bought drinks for his friends as they rested at the inn, and the word got around that he needed carpenters and stonemasons, and he got stopped by people making offers for their time, and soon he had a team there working to add a nice sized house to his new estate.

      He drew a picture of what he wanted and the man in charge said it would take a while, and a lot of materials.

      “I’ll supply materials, you lay it all out and do what you can with the materials I provide.” James said as the man agreed, and James used transport to get there off and on for a few days and now 120 lumber was there and 100 cut stones, and the manager mentioned that would get the foundation built at least and James agreed and they worked on that for a while, and one of James’s friends came up to him and sold him lumber at a price too good to miss, and that too arrived at the site, as even the men working there were shocked that a large bundle like this just dropped in while they were there.

      “We’re working for a Wizard after all.” The Manger mentioned as he laughed. James was doing his part and now they had enough materials to start on the main house, or part of it anyways and he mentioned to James he’d need to pick out windows too, and he agreed and it took him a few days to get ones he liked, but one day they rode up a bundle of nice looking windows was sitting there leaning on another bundle of wood and they set those into the front wall that day and the walls started back up again.

      The main building was 2 stories high with the top floor being all bedrooms. It had a stairway leading up there from the entrance way and a kitchen behind that with storage for foods and equipment. The kitchen needed a stove to cook on, and James got one off a metal working apprentice that built it for practice and it looked pretty good, and being an apprentice, he sold it dirt cheap, and that got send there too.

      He worked his buns off for weeks, doing quests for cash and then wood working or stone cutting until dark and barely walking for a day after that. But it got done, and it took every coin James had to pay off the workers but he would do it all again.

      The two story house was the center, and it had 2 annexes on it, one on the right and one on the left. The right one was storage and the main living room. The left was storage and his library, and the main dining hall. It had two bathrooms inside one above the other, one on the second floor and one downstairs and the design was like nothing the workers had ever seen, while carrying stones and sand for some odd pit the Master wanted made for it, but they did, and soon it was all finished, roughly, as James said but he owned a house now, even though he felt he had a hundred hours more work to do yet.

      But it was water tight and so safe from the rainy season that was coming up. It was cooler than being outside during the summer and with the fireplaces and the kitchen downstairs it would be warm during the winter too. It might look a little big for one man, but even he knew he wouldn’t be alone forever, and now he had a house capable of having a family living in it, and he smiled thinking that.

    7. #7
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      Chapter 13: New Challenges

      Well that much was done, the house was up... if just barely... he wanted the finish work done too, stone casing the entire first floor, and beds, mattresses, blankets, all things that he’d need not to mention stocking up on wood for the kitchen and fireplaces. It really was becoming a full time job, and he knew before he moved in he’d need to hire some people to help to clean it and cook for him when he was there.

      “Money pit...” he whispered but then he left them all tease him into building it so now he had to man up and get it all done. Of course he could live in it as is, getting wood wasn’t a problem but hell he didn’t even have the well dug yet, not like clean water wasn’t a few yards out the front door.

      All it took was money, and time, and he used his new skills to make more lumber and sold that, and then got more cut stones for the house again. He stocked everything up and a month after the original work was done a new team did the stone work, and James started to like the looks a lot more.

      Then the upper floor of the main structure got a good coat of white paint and that set off the stone work pretty well. He took some time to do more missions and made some good cash. But getting nice beds was going to cost too. Rolled up grass mattresses were cheap enough but the wooden beds that looked decent cost 3 Gold each, without mattresses or blankets or pillows...and he bought 1 for his own room thinking he’d worry about the others later.

      Days went by and the word got back to the King that the newest Noble had erected a home for himself, and one nice warm day he and his family rode out to see it and welcome James to the Nobility.

      But of course he wasn’t there, but King John got a good look at the place and even his wife thought the two tone job of white paint and stone walls looked pretty good, and someone asked ‘I wonder how many bedrooms it has’ and King John didn’t even try and guess, saying that all that personal stuff was up to James, and he wondered if he would have a party to celebrate his homes grand opening...and smiled thinking he might be having a few problems buying everything he needed. James was never rich, just a hard worker, and so they rode back home and John sent a message to James saying his house looked nice, and James nearly fainted to think the King came by and saw an empty shell sitting there.

      Everyone who knew James knew he was working around the clock to get moved into his new place, and so a few mentioned they’d give him a hand if he needed it, but he waved it away saying he was ‘almost done’ and they knew that was a pile of dung right there. But he was stubborn and too serious for his own good, and his friends stayed back and watched him until they felt he’d let them help.

      After every quest he disappeared for a few hours and finally Janice and two of his team mates, Adam and Ira decided this was getting silly. When he disappeared into his doorway, they did too, and when he looked around carrying a shovel and pick, two more men and a woman were standing there and he asked when she had been here before, and she said they rode out to see the place a few days before.

      “So buddy, what are we digging?” Ira asked and took the pick from him and James just shook his head because they caught him fair and square.

      “My well, just way...” he said and they went out back to see the stick right where he stuck it, now not more than 10 feet outside his back door.

      “You cant beat that, there’s no carrying from here to the house.” Adam commented, as James said any closer it would be inside, and they all laughed. “You ever do a well before James? There’s not enough room for a crowd in there working, but you’ll need a lot of finish stone to keep the walls from falling in.” he mentioned as James asked if small cut stone would work and they agreed.

      “We’ll start digging, you two go get some stone.” The one man said and as James and Janice walked away she got a perfect spot picked out for her transport and James mentioned he had some big boulders in the field behind the house so he might as well use those, and they broke them up and he formed cut stone out of them and she opened a door as they tossed them through, as the other two started digging deeper and deeper they could hear the stone pile getting larger and larger.

      Soon they were back and his buddies were just about head deep in a nice round hole when they got there.

      “I think we got enough stone.” James mentioned as the men agreed that he had enough to wall up everything they had done so far easily with lots to spare.”No water yet?” he hinted as the big man smiled and said it was getting soft where they were standing, so it should’t be much further.

      They dug and took a break for lunch and the James helped dig a little after that. By the time they got deep enough to need a ladder to get out a soft trickling sound was heard and they used a torch to look around and saw a little stream running down the wall on one side about a foot above the floor.

      “Thats why the floors getting muddy.” James said as they all agreed and they dug down another spade deeper, and when they hit a rock they dug around it and tried to lift it up, but the second it moved water gushed in, and they dropped it quickly and started yelling for the stone.

      Bucket after bucket of stone was lowered to them and they worked as fast as they could. By now the water was knee deep and they were really screaming along as fast as possible trying to get the walls reinforced before they were forced out. But James had a strange thought and he laughed and closed his eyes as Janice asked what he was doing. Then a minute later a door opened under the water, and it started draining and she turned to see a geyser in the middle of his field where they were cutting stone, and she laughed that she would never have thought of that.

      “Keep it up James its almost empty again. Janice, more rocks..” The big man screamed and James held the door open as long as he could and another 4 rows of rock got placed to support the walls.

      By then they were just exhausted and after seeing 6 feet of the well stone cased they figured that was the best they could do for now.

      “It might not get that deep either.” He heard and he agreed, but if it did then he could use his ability to drain it again until they got it finished.”Still needs capped all the way to the top, but not today.” Adam, the big man said, said as James laughed and looked at the men and all the mud they had caked on them and their boots.

      “Good job though, so how about we get dry cloths and rest for the evening?” James said and they agreed.

      “Do we get the grand tour?” Janice asked and James agreed, saying ‘leave the mud outside,please.’ and they pointed to his boots too and he just sighed and they all went in. But he did remove his dirty boots and made everyone else do theirs too, and they all agreed that it was a nice place, 6 bedrooms, a large kitchen with a iron cook stove, a library, he called his study room,the main dining room, a large entrance way, and a large living room at the other end. The fireplaces in either end were nice and he started a fire and they got dried off sitting there for a while and then they went back to town and this time they bought James a drink, saying he needed every brass he could get to get furniture for his new place... and at that he agreed.

      Chapter 14: Time Off

      James had been trying to do everything himself and everyone knew it. He didn’t have half the cash to get the house finished... and his friends started making an effort to help him...without him noticing.

      Notices went up on the Guild bulletin board of things for sale, not unusual, but some new young people had several skills. Their original ability they used daily, and some skills they learned for extra cash. Mining,woodworking, every type of skill imaginable, and James got told to keep an eye on things there, since people just starting out needed every copper they could get.

      It took no time to find some basic chairs, a few small stands he could use by his beds, and even a few brass lanterns that were small but looked really nice.

      But James was no fool, he had worked with a few of these people and they got along, and they never mentioned having these skills before, but he appreciated it and bought a few pieces from time to time, and his one storage room at the house started filling up because he hadn’t even finished the floors yet.

      After a mission at a town nearby to remove a bandit gang James got pointed towards the board again, and he just smiled. There was an offer for lumber, lots of it in several different types, and James turned and asked if the man was there and a young man popped up from a table along one wall saying it was him. They went out back to see bundles of wood there, some a type James had not seen on his lands. It was all rough lumber and the young man said he did this for extra money because he was just starting out and needed the cash, and James nodded he understood. One type was almost pure white, with some odd swirls of green in it, and James thought that would look nice finished. There were 2 bundles of oak and 2 more of cherry, a nice red wood used for finish work, and James got a good price and bought it all, and sent it home so the wood workers would again have something to work with.

      They were giving him a low rate, because he was getting the work done a little at a time, and he supplied all the materials. So this was going to be the first big step towards finishing the place, and he felt good he had so many friends.

      The wood workers had mentioned that oak made excellent flooring, and cherry great finish wood for walls and shelves, so James did good this time, and told the young man he’d buy several more bundles if he got them, and a deal was done.

      James was used to the economy here by now. When he first came he thought Gold was the average currency, it certainly was not. Copper was the lowest form being used for all small purchases. A starter mission might pay 5 copper to kill a wolf, or 5 for a bounty for each killed. Then medium missions would pay silver, even guarding convoys and defeating bandits paid perhaps 20-30 silver.It took 100 copper to equal a silver coin, and 100 silver to equal 1 Gold, so Gold was used only in big deals like buying land and houses or higher level Magic items... which were always expensive.

      The Foreman that was in charge of doing his wood working at the house charged 20 silver a day, and he used that to pay his helpers... and some were even apprentices that got nearly nothing but experience. If this system hadn’t been in place James knew he never would finish his estate alone, and even now he knew he was getting help from friends, and that he’d be there for them when they needed him too.

      With this new supplier of materials James didn’t need to mine stone or wood for a while so he could relax a bit and do jobs for cash. But soon he got a message from King John saying that all Nobles were ordered to the castle for their twice yearly meeting, and James was going to be announced as the newest Baron of the Kingdom, and James felt the pressure starting to rise.

      He had his uniform cleaned and was ready and when the day came at the appointed time, he stepped through a doorway to the front gate and was left in with smiles and waves from soldiers he had fought along side.

      He was taken into the main castle itself and waved into a massive conference room and when the door opened and he stepped in, wearing his Magicians Academy uniform and carrying his staff many there turned to see him and a few whispers were made as he got a friendly wave from his Majesty, sitting at the head of the room with his family all around him.

      They all sat and the meeting started and James was introduced as the newest Baron, not a high ranking Noble, but one none the less.The estate was listed as his and it got mentioned that he was in the process of building his home there, as many nodded... though some sourly.

      “As you can tell, James is a graduate of Master Glen’s school for Magicians, and has...at this time... 3 Magical abilities. You haven’t learned more since we last spoke have you James?” he asked as James stood and gave him a proper bow and said he hadn’t had the time. As the room laughed and many looked shocked he could joke around with the King.

      “Three abilities at his age? ...Preposterous!” One man said loudly as King John gave him a serious look for doubting his word.

      “James if you please...but don’t kill anyone today... all right?” John asked as James stood again, and in his right hand was a boiling fire, and in his left a large ball of ice, he closed his hands and they disappeared and a second later a door opened and he stepped through and in that moment was just...gone... as people all around the room gasped at the sight of it.

      “James alone was the main reason we didn’t starve here during that last attack. He alone set up a supply station in Cartilage, gathered resources, and sent convoys to us without passing the enemy guard stations... and then, even after all that... he openly attacked their main base, killing dozens of enemy soldiers and assisting in the last attack.” John announced, as people all around the room looked impressed as the door opened again and James walked in, slightly out of breath.

      “Sorry it took so long your Majesty, I didn’t think to add this room as a transport point so I ran from the front gate.” James said with a bow as the room burst out laughing, and John forgave him as he took his seat again.

      “I apologize, Lord Hudson, I had no idea...” The older grumpy man said softly as James waved it away like nothing was said.

      “Then when will you and your family be entering your estate to live there?” One of John’s daughters asked as the room smiled.

      “I have no family. The Estate is for me alone, thats just another reason I’m not rushing to finish it.” He admitted as a few looked surprised that he was alone, especially after becoming a member of Nobility, and that message would get taken home by many here who might have someone looking for a husband of Noble birth.

      “As you can see James is still quite young, how old are you now anyways James?” John asked as James announced he was still 16, as the room looked like they might choke on thin air.

      “A Noble at 16?” Got whispered as many looked shocked.

      “But thats marrying age here James so be wary...young women will flock to you now that you’re Nobility.” was mentioned again... from John’s family... and he saw one member getting her 2 cents in while the Queen tried hard not to laugh, since he was trying to have a serious meeting.

      “Perhaps a Princess as well.” was heard...barely... as John cleared his throat saying she was only stating the obvious to someone they felt was a friend, as people all around didn’t look too sure about that.

      “Our newest Noble will need help getting started. After all he has no such experience, so Royal Taxes will be with held from his estate until he can start showing a profit there.” John said, and James looked surprised that he hadnt thought about taxes at all.” So anyone who wants,please give him some information since up until now he’s been an adventurer and knows little about true Nobility.” John mentioned with a wink, and James knew for a fact that was the truest thing anyone had ever said.

      The meeting ended right after that, and James got swarmed by Nobles wanting to give him advise...and possibly sell him something. He got a card from the wood workers Guild saying as a Noble he got discounts on everything, and he smiled about that. Then he asked a few how they made a profit on their estates, and everyone had an idea, from growing and selling cattle, horses, or growing crops, all things needed and well worth having to sell, since a Noble owned the land, he had people work it... usually for a free house to live in and a big percentage of the harvest... so they too could make something.

      He also learned he needed a barn for his own animals, and a bunkhouse for his employees, more construction, and any farmers would need a place to live too, and James saw lots more lumber being needed and he chuckled and shook his head as a few wondered what he thought was so funny.

      Then suddenly he was all alone for a minute, and he looked around as everyone seemed mildly amused, as James turned to see Princess Cherry standing there, drink in hand, and he smiled and gave her a deep bow.

      “ Heres some information none of these others will tell you.” She said softly as James just smiled and waited.” Today you were announced as a Nobleman, so your uniform was well used. But look around at what real Nobles wear, and plan ahead, there are meetings every 6 months, spring and fall. Spring to talk about who is planting what and Fall, to see what the harvest will be like.” She added as he thanked her for the help.

      “You may also need a dam on that small stream as well, sometimes summers can be excessively dry and you need a steady supply of water for your farming if nothing else.” She hinted and gave him a quick bow and went back to her table as James saw John looking at him curiously and James just smiled and shook his head ‘no’ when no one else was watching, and John’s face cheered up substantially.

      “John darling, what was that for?” The Queen whispered, as John just cleared his throat and said he and James had an understanding, and she chuckled... because she was pretty sure Cherry thought she had one too.

      Being the middle daughter of 3 she was just 17 and while many daughters of Royal blood were married around their 16th birthday John was nothing if not over protective, and he might just need to lighten up a bit, because a stiff stick breaks easily under pressure... and if she read her daughters right... pressure was something coming his way.

    8. #8
      TXU Hero kevin398's Avatar
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      Chapter 15: From Pretty Scenery to Profitable Estate

      James got a lot of information, and while he never planned on being home just sitting around for weeks on end, there would be times like when the rainy season would come and quests would be put on hold for weeks at a time, and he’d need a place to live since paying monthly rent got expensive too.

      He added a note to the town bulletin board saying he was looking for farmers, and that he’d give young people starting out a fair chance, since he himself was very young to be a Noble, and he decided that youth would be his trademark after all.

      It took a week but finally one young man around 18 walked up to him in the bar and asked what kind of farming James wanted to do, and they sat down at a table to discuss it.

      “I know very little about farming,” James admitted as the young man agreed saying his entire family were farmers and he had been working the fields beside his family since he was 6.

      “I own some nice land, a small stream runs through it and there are some flat, or nearly flat fields full of high grass.” James mentioned as the young man added that animals of all kinds could be raised there, beef and pigs especially and James nodded as they spoke more.

      “I also travel for work a lot myself, so getting some things from other areas was a good idea I thought. One man I asked said that there are quite a few farms around that raised corn and wheat, but little other vegetables , so they get brought in from other areas.” He mentioned as the man agreed that harvesting large amounts of fruits and vegetables was rarely done here, but then many didn’t have the land for it either.

      “So, you’re thinking animals first then see what can be grown later?” James asked as the young man said that every farmer had a small garden for their own food, so that was a good way to see what they could grow and James agreed.

      “The usual rates then? We get half our crops for sale and you get half as the land owner?” The young man asked as James agreed, since right now nothing was coming in.” Then we have a deal your Lordship, I’m Stanley Brash, and I’ll be your loyal servant from today on.” The young man said with a bow, and James waved that way saying that he didn’t even have a house built out there yet, and Stanley said, if he didn’t mind, he’d chose a spot for it then and the deal was done, and Stanley ran home to tell his family he was getting his own place and his fiance was all ready to start their new life together.

      After Stanley ran out the door to tell his family the good news the Guild Master walked over and shook James’s hand as he asked why.

      “You’re the youngest Noble in history here, and you’re going out of your way to help other young people get a start. Thats why, and believe me you’re getting a good reputation for it too.” He mentioned with a wink and James felt good that he was doing something to help others, and he thanked the man for saying so.

      “Now get yourself a pretty little wife and you’ll be all set.” he hinted and laughed as James asked why everyone was so set on that, and many there laughed at him.

      But now he had something else that would need done and he went home and talked to the foreman who happily took him inside to see what they had done so far. The dining room had a beautiful table and 6 chairs in it made from the best cherry wood. The floor was red oak and sanded and polished until it shone and the walls were cherry too only less dark and lighter, and he got told that would let the light from the oil lamps or candles show better, and James agreed.

      “One room down and only a dozen to go.” James hinted as the man stopped to think and James saw his joke was being taken seriously. “Well, OK not a dozen.” he added as the man finally smiled.

      “How much rough lumber do we have left?” James asked as the man said it was mostly gone now and they’d need more cherry and oak too to finish the rest of the house.”There will be a young farmer coming by, and we need to throw up a house for him too wherever he decides he wants one. Nothing like this of course.” James said as they both laughed.

      “ A farmers starter house? No problem. We can use basically anything for that and be done in a couple days.” He hinted as James said he’d get them some more lumber then and they shook on it.

      James went back to the Guild Hall and found his supplier who said he did have some more lumber but not a lot of what James needed.

      “I have out buildings to build too, so any old lumber right now will help.” He said as the kids face lit up and out back they went and 4 bundles of what the young man called... basic junk lumber... went out through the doorway and he got enough silver for another week, and he was happy with that.

      “Remember, oak and cherry...” James said as he walked away, and the kid ran to get started on some more work for next time.

      James was never a farmer, but he was smart enough to know you cant plant anything without seeds, and his memories of the past made him think he could help with that, and as he walked along the marketplace he bought a small coin purse, and smiled knowing he wouldn’t use it for money. Then every time he got a meal or a snack he watched, and on one mission he saw what looked like wild plants along one trail and asked about it.

      “Pumpkins...” He was told by an old man down the road,” it’s a shame too, the family that lived there was killed by bandits and now their farm just sits there abandoned.” That told James that whatever was out there was free, and he snuck back out to find a rotten pumpkin and he sliced it open and got a cup full of seeds out, and it nearly filled the little purse.

      He was carful and with the big load of wood he sent back in a few days Stanley had a home and he was very pleased when James rode up and asked how he liked it.

      “It’s very nice your Lordship, I never thought we’d be getting such a great start here.” he gushed as James smiled and throw him the little pouch and when he opened it he saw apple seeds and pumpkin seeds, lots of them.

      “A start for your garden.” James said and waved and Stanley and his wife waved back as long as he was in sight.

      “He’s a kind young man,” Shirley, Stan’s life said and he agreed, with these he could start a garden without even borrowing from his family for a start. James really did plan ahead, and Stanley saw good things for all of them in their future.

      James also checked back at the Estate, and the bunk house was almost done too. Using this cheap lumber basic structures weren’t a problem, said the foreman and he said a few more bundles and they could do the barn too.

      James dropped a Gold coin on him as partial payment and the work went on. He had done several quests in that time, and with practice his skills improved. His fire blast now had twice the power it used to and he could freeze things out 20 meters now instead of 10 when he started.

      Now he had a place for his help to live, and he walked through it and nodded, nothing fancy but it was warm and spacious, and he got a table and chairs for there too and got a deal on some blankets from the Guild. little things they would all need, and soon he placed a note saying he needed a cook and two maids for his estate, and was really surprised how fast he found them, since it seemed cooking and cleaning paid less but were a lot safer than questing for those born without massive skills.

      Now things were getting done, he bought several more loads of wood, some nice cherry too and then went back to questing for another couple weeks.He knew his people would do their best to keep the house clean while the work went on, and when he finally went home for a stay the entrance way looked amazing, and the living room was just getting finished, as his employees met him coming in and smiled and welcomed him home, and he felt like this was going to work out after all.

      The one maid did mention that they got some supplies, mostly things like mops and brooms that he forgot, but just the mention of his name got them an account in town, and he agreed saying he would make a House Account at the bank so they would have money for essentials, and apologized for not thinking about it sooner. But it got done, and with a few Gold in there a mop or broom or even some food for the kitchen didn’t amount to anything at all.

      He started out with nothing, but today he had a home and friends, and James felt really good the day the barn was finished and the last of the finish work was done in the bedrooms. He paid the workers who said to call anytime, and his construction project was complete, and as he walked into the dinning hall for dinner the brass lamps on the walls did a great job, and he knew he planned pretty well considering.

      Chapter 16: Work and Studies

      James leaned heavily on his two attack skills during missions. Fire and Ice or Water depending on the case did well for him, and he learned a few new things from others, or books he found for sale here and there.

      He learned the spell Fireball Detonation while helping John during the war and used it on the enemy camp when he was there. During one other quest his team walked almost into a small army of pirates and with the help of that skill they nearly wiped them out, and finished with minimum damage to the Team.

      He had started out doing missions for a couple copper, but by now with his reputation rise and improved skills he was getting 50 silver or more a mission, and a few where several Gold changed hands.

      His Team got a reputation for getting tough jobs done, and offers for even harder missions came in from further away, and they did one or two and barely made it back alive, and realized they might need a little more help.

      The Team was now James, Janice, Ira and Adam, and they had been together for a while now and done many good jobs together. But as their reputation rose and jobs got tougher 4 people just couldn’t keep up, and they dropped a few hints saying they needed more members and a few days later Sean joined, an Archer Class and things started to look a little better.

      “Another Ranged Specialist will certainly help.” Janice mentioned as he thanked her for saying so.His specialty was an attack called Arrow Storm, and he fired a single arrow into the sky and a dozen or more returned, taking out several enemies at once. Thats was a good attack, and James admitted with him along bigger missions might be taken, and they all agreed that things could only get better now.

      The next mission was looking for a bandit gang in a area next door. It was the area of Duke Garret Menington and his wife Shirley. Their convoys were being picked off one by one and they were losing considerable income, so the reward was substantial, and they accepted and rode half a day to get there, and James smiled seeing the same Estate he had been to before, some time ago.

      They were led inside and the Duke saw them and laughed when they walked in as everyone looked surprised at that. But not for long.

      “The Adventurer Baron arrives, I never thought I’d meet you in person.” A rather rotund man said sitting there on his throne.

      “Your highness..” James said in return with a short bow.” I suppose my reputation has preceeded me this time.” he said as Janice and the others got a little chuckle in there.

      “Indeed it has, I hear you have several abilities and have done good work in my domain for quite a while now. I hope you do as well for me.” He added as James said they would do their best. The man snapped his fingers and a map was brought out and handed to James and he opened it to see several places marked off.

      “Those are the places my convoys have been attacked and my men cant find these curs no matter what. I’ll pay 50 Gold if you can get rid of this rabble before they bankrupt me completely!” He screamed as James rolled up the map and said they would do their best, and then were led out.

      “Any ideas?” Janice asked as they got on their horses, and started out the gate.

      “Only one so far...” James mentioned as she waited to hear. “This is about more than convoys, he’s scared to death as I’m sure you can tell.” he mentioned as Adam said it looked that way to him too.

      “Assassins?” Sean guessed as James said there was no way of knowing, at least not yet.

      “Lets go back to town and study this further, I think we’re walking into something a lot bigger than he’s letting on.” James said as they rode back and stopped at the local bar and sat at a table with the map spread out to read it better. The attacks had been happening not far from the main estate, catching convoys and travelers coming and going from that center point.

      Food had been stolen, and weapons, and clothing, a big assortment of things but nothing worth a lot, no matter how you looked at it.

      “With all these attacks, he couldn’t have lost more than 30 Gold...so why pay us 50 to stop it?” James whispered as everyone looked troubled by that. “There’s something else, something he’s not telling us.” he hinted as Janice said maybe something was stolen he wouldn’t admit to, and James said that was very possible.

      “He’s a hermit, that seldom leaves his estate for anything. Thats what I hear when I asked.” James said as others agreed.” His family is forced to live the same way. I met one of his daughters that snuck out to try and find some companionship a long time ago and brought her home and dropped her of there. If he’s that afraid then maybe someone got kidnaped and is being held for ransom.” He guessed and Adam said that would be worth a hell of a lot more then, and James agreed.

      “If its a Family member, they could bleed him dry.” James heard and he saw that this was going to be a complicated job no matter what.

      “Not one attack more than 5 miles away, and then, one way out here.” He said pointing as they all agreed, after attacking everything this close within 5 miles...why one attack way out here?” he hinted as they all smiled and nodded. “ Thats where we start looking. I think there’s a reason they left their normal zones to attack something this far away.” he said and the plan was made. They got supplies for a few days and left Cartilage late in the after noon and set up camp not 2 miles from the attack point and got some sleep.

      The next day they looked all around the area and found nothing. Tracks were long gone and it was a busy trade lane so that wasn’t going to help them. James had one idea, a new spell he had been practicing and he closed his eyes and whispered ‘search’ and off in the distance he saw wagon tracks going off into the woods and he pointed that way and they rode out to look.

      “How do you know these tracks mean anything?” Janice asked as James said it was all about concentration. If you think only about ‘attacks’ and then search. The tracks you find will have something to do with attacks in that area.

      “Nice...” Adam said as even James admitted this was the first time using it for real but it was better than nothing.

      They rode for a couple miles and found a small cabin along the river. There was no one home but it had a lot of stuff stacked up inside it and Janice guessed it was the stolen supplies they hadn’t sold yet.

      James did search again and in one corner found a drop or two of blood and they guessed during one attack one of their men got hit, maybe by an arrow.

      “Or maybe not.” James hinted as he put his finger right on one drop and did ‘search’ again and he saw someone being held and tied up, and he pointed that way saying another building was that way and they had a hostage and they ran immediately to find a farmhouse with 4 guards outside and horses tied there ready to run, and they snuck in as close as they could get and silently took out the guards and rushed in to rescue the prisoner, and after a sword fight inside she was freed, and James recognized her as the girl from before. Obviously she was still sneaking out, and this time her ‘friends’ weren’t so friendly.

      “Oh thank God!” She screamed as they untied her, and the bruises on her face and cracked lip said she got more than she bargained for this time.

      “You’re safe now, we’ll take you home.” Janice said softly as they got her onto a horse and loaded up all the dead men on their own wagon and took them all back as Garret looked relieved, and seriously surprised it happened so fast.

      “ We have a Master Magician on our Team.” Janice said proudly, as James just laughed and said they were glad they could help.

      They got paid and a serious apology from the Duke for not being honest about the job, and even as they were walking out he was screaming bloody murder at his daughter for nearly getting herself killed, and James tried hard to not turn to say something, but Janice had his arm and dragged him to his horse, this time a wise decision.

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      Chapter 17: Awards and Rewards

      Two days later they got a message to return and as they rode in a soldier waved them over to a line of horses and mules tied by the guard post.

      “These are all from the raid you made. When the Duke sent us out to retrieve his goods we found all these in the barn. He took a few for himself and said these all belong to you, as a bonus for your hard work.” he said as everyone looked impressed, some of these horses were better than what they were riding, as Adam mentioned and James agreed.

      “You did all the hard work, you choose first.” Janice mentioned as everyone agreed so James took a few minutes to really look them over seriously and since they got 3 each, he got a young male, a fairly young female and a nice sized mule and said these would be fine.

      “A mule, really?” Sean asked, as James laughed saying that was good enough, and the rest picked them over and soon they were ready to go again.

      “Going home now see you later.” James said and rode his horses through his doorway and right to his estate and he put the two horses into the barn and took the mule back to Stanley, who looked both surprised and happy.

      “You’re too kind to us.” he said as his wife agreed but James reminded them that their success was his success and since he got the animal for free he’d be crazy not to help. “please let me show you how things are going.” Stan mentioned as he tied the mule up out front. He took James around back and showed him a nice sized garden with 6 rows of young plants and James looked impressed.

      “Pumpkins...Millet for grain,you’re apple seeds, we got 3 to grow...some beets and peppers from my father. It looks like everything grows well here.” Stanley mentioned as James said it was nice to know and made sure they had seeds for in the Spring and Stan said that they got a late start, but there was a good chance that they would get a few pumpkins before winter and a few other vegetables as well.

      “Seeds for next year.” Stanley added as James shook his hand smiling, it seemed like food was going to get cheaper and that was good.

      “I was told by a ...knowledgeable person...” James started “ that summers get pretty dry here and that we might need a big dam or pond made on the stream for water, do you think thats true?” he asked as Stan said that water was the most important thing and you couldn’t grow anything without it.” Thats what I thought, well that I can fix.” he said and walked over looking all around and finally decided on a stretch of stream that was mostly just rocks and shallow water running over them. He waved everyone back and after second to concentrate left a blast go that shook the ground, throwing rocks everywhere and water into the sky. The blast actually knocked him over as he got up coughing on the muddy water and laughing.

      “I wont be doing that again.” he said as Stan ran up to check on him. But the deal was done and now there was a hole 35 feet wide and 8 feet deep and even now the stream was working hard to fill it back up.

      “Amazing! I’ve never seen such power.” Stanley screamed, and his wife totally agreed.

      “It’s what I do for a living.” James hinted and laughed, and said he needed clean cloths now and waved and transported back home.

      But when he got there he had an idea. The stream was right now not running, but he knew in a few minutes it would be again. He carefully adjusted his power and fired two shots right out in front of the house, and made a pond 15 feet wide, 30 feet long and 6 feet deep, two that touched each other making a peanut shaped pond, which of course he’d call a pool, and his hot summer days would get a lot cooler after this. One more little blast and one end was now 8 feet deep and he felt that was enough, as his workers ran out to see what was happening, and he pointed and said he was making a pool, and they got a good laugh at his filthy look with mud all over him.

      “Want me to draw water for a bath sir?” One maid asked as he laughed saying bring him a towel, and he jumped into the hole 6 feet deep and an entire waterfall washed down on him and he got a good bath, and cleaned his cloths pretty well too, and as he walked out she handed him a towel and he decided that was enough craziness for today and went inside to rest.

      Before dark Charlene, one of James’s maids, was in the castle getting some thing for dinner. She ran into one of the castles maids at the Market and they talked a bit before she had to hurry home. The story of James making a place to bathe right out front... or swim if thats what you liked... got spread around pretty fast and by the time dinner came Princess Alice, the youngest of John’s children had a new story to tell.

      “Bathing...in public?” King John asked, looking embarrassed just thinking it, as a few others just laughed.

      “A place to swim, Father.” Cherry said as he finally got it.” Within sight of the house and easy to get to. They even said he’s planning on fishing there because now thats the deepest place in the entire stream.” She mentioned as John looked impressed saying they never thought to make a pool inside the castle, and his daughters agreed, giving him the evil eye for it.

      “His construction work is almost all done.” Catherine said as John nodded happily,” So now he doesn’t need to work as hard and he’s home more often.” She hinted as he agreed they should go and see him and do the official ‘welcome to the kingdom’ thing, and the girls added that it had been really warm lately, and their mother agreed to that too, and he looked less than happy thinking about them all laying around half dressed.

      But noon the next day they were all in a carriage with a full escort and riding along towards the Estate. John took no chances this time, he sent a man ahead and told James to stay home for a while and he agreed and got ready for company. His new cloths were closer to matching what other Nobles wore and when the carriage stopped out front John got out and shook his hand and did the official welcome, and Alice screamed ‘there it is’ and the girls ran to the pool as James laughed and John looked mortified at their actions.

      “We heard all about you making a special place to swim.” Queen Catherine mentioned as James said they could use it anytime they saw fit, and she thanked him and called for the girls to change and the curtains went shut on the big carriage as sounds of joy and laughter floated out and John leaned in and whispered that now he had to make a pool inside the castle too, and James apologized saying he always liked fishing and swimming, so he didn’t want to waste having his own source of water right there, and John agreed, as women piled out and walked, politely and elegantly to the pool and after laying out blankets, jumped in and swam around a bit, and John asked that James not stare so much, and James leaned in and whispered that John was a lucky man, and even he had to look around to see Catherine in her swimsuit too and he choked and admitted he was.

      “You cant get three girls for free.” he hinted as quietly as he could, and James just smiled and tried not to say half the things running through his mind right now.

      Chapter 18: Royals for Dinner

      James offered John a seat on his front porch and he agreed and they brought out a few wooden chairs and they sat there drinking tea.

      “I’m sorry you didn’t catch me home the first time you came to visit.” James hinted as John said not to worry , it wasn’t the first time missing a Noble when he came by.

      “It lets us get out a little more.” He admitted saying that even his family got tired looking at the same scenery every day all day.

      “This property is the best thing that could have happened to me,and I thank you for that.” James said seriously as John nodded saying he earned it. Not only were soldiers going without food during the war, his own family were worried that they might not survive if the enemy soldiers got inside the walls. “ I have been working exceedingly hard getting this ready. The first trip you made here the house was nothing but the outer shell.” he admitted as John just smiled and nodded.

      “But now its getting pretty nice...nothing compared to the castle of course... but then, I have no such lofty goals, this place suits me fine.” James said and John saw that it was true.

      “Then you’re not thinking of dating my daughter?” John whispered as James looked like he’d laugh out loud any minute.

      “I know she seems to have a bit of a crush on me, as I’ve been told, and warned about that. But even though she is a pretty girl, I’m sure you have a multitude of young men standing around the castle waiting on her hand.” James hinted as John admitted there were a few.

      “My youngest is 13 now and the oldest is 18, so the vultures are circling.” John hinted as James got a little chuckle in there and John joined him. James asked if they could stay for a while and after thinking John agreed. So he sent someone back for more..and better ..food and a nice cake for desert, and King John had a meal with the newest Baron, and said that even though the house was small compared to what they were used to, it was very nice, and James thanked them and after dinner they loaded up and were gone...and James could finally laugh out loud about the way Cherry was acting around the pool... with one eye on the house at all times... and his one maid asked if they had something going, and he said ‘only in her mind’ and she laughed as she ran to the kitchen to tell everyone, while trying not to be too obvious.

      But John had asked... straight out... what James thought of Cherry and his answer pleased him. It gave him the weapon he needed, and when she sat around their living area saying how nice it was to have a pool, John mentioned that James was asked about dating...and the room went dead silent.

      “John Darling... you didn’t...” Catherine asked as Cherry looked like her eyes might kill any second and John added that James ‘had no such lofty goals’...and as such she might need to look closer to home for her husband, and Cherry ran from the room screaming,and the Queen gave him a really dirty look.

      “I was working on that...” She hinted as John looked like he had stepped in front of a herd of wild horses.

      “Don’t lie to me, you like James for her husband,I’ve heard you saying so.” he hinted as she looked like she might have been caught too.

      “I wont go that far, but he is better than a few you have hanging around here waiting...like Count Vascals son Harry...queer as the day is long.” She whispered as John insisted his father told him he wasn’t.

      “He’s just exceedingly neat and tidy.” He hinted as Catherine looked away to stop from laughing, she herself saw him coming on to the castle guards, and not too casually either.

      “At least Baron Hudson is a real man, and he’s not stupid either. The pool idea hasn’t been done that I can think of anywhere else. He already has a family living on his property farming for him,and has gotten two young horses that he plans to breed and start a horse farm. For his age he’s an up and coming young Noble and we aren’t the only ones noticing either.” She added as John admitted James was doing very well considering how fast things were happening.

      “His house was nice, not too big but nice.” Was all he’d admit to and Catherine agreed.

      “Six bedrooms, thats a lot of children.” She hinted and looked away while he fumed.

      “He has made his decision, he’s not interested in being a Royal, so she’ll just have to got over it.” John announced and walked out, as the Queen hoped Cherry didn’t hear that, because she was her mothers daughter and if she did she’d be in another mans bed before dark, and she went to tell her not to rush... her mom was here to help... and when she got to her room,she was gone. A few cloths and her weapons belt that held her short sword and dagger she practiced with each day, and she knew she had heard, and right where she was headed.

      James was sitting by the fireplace laughing at a new booklet be bought with spells in it. Some people wasted their skills coming up with things that made no sense. Like a spell to hurry women to get dressed, or a spell to change eye color, or a wind spell to lift girls skirts. It was obvious that Magic was used for far more than defense and offense, it was openly used for gags and pranks.

      Just then there was a knock on the door and one maid ran to get it and her face looked shocked as James walked out to see Cherry... soaking wet in a pouring thunderstorm... asking if he was going to let her die out here, and he looked faint, and asked her in and sent the maid for a towel.

      “What are you doing?” he asked as he sat her down by the fire and she started getting warmer again.

      “Father made a big decision that I needed to marry anyone HE Liked. I’ve been telling him I have my own likes and dislikes but he wont listen so tonight I just had too much,and I ran away.” She said as tea was brought and she sipped it while James went out to put the horse in the barn before it too died of some chill.And when he returned she was looking much better and complaining a lot less.

      “ You ran away to the most obvious place ever.” James hinted, as she didn’t disagree with that, even though she didn’t look happy with his comment.

      “Princess Anderson...” James started very officially, as she smiled and said he could call her Cherry, and he cleared his throat and started again.” Princess Anderson...are you trying to get me killed?” he asked seriously as she looked surprised he thought that.

      “Your Father made it abundantly clear he doesn’t want you running off without a proper escort,and here you are, in the dark, alone and soaking wet.” he hinted as she admitted it wasn’t raining when she left home.”King John loves you, and wants only whats best for you, and deep inside I think you know that.” James hinted as she admitted she did.

      “He has 3 of us to marry off and my older sister is 18 and still refusing to leave home. He’s so desperate he has people who like other men waiting to see if I can change there minds...” She said and her face said she thought it was true.

      Now James was hiding behind his hand and looking away but the shaking of his shoulders gave it away as she screamed not to laugh at her and he apologized, while laughing the whole time.

      “Other men...” He whispered, giving her a look out of the corner of his eyes as she fumed, then laughed some more as she sat there poking at the fire and waiting for him to settle down.” Oh, I’m so sorry Your Majesty, thats was just too much for me all at once.” he admitted as she finally did smile and admitted that was a lot to drop on someone she barely knew.

      “I can sympathize, really, until lately I never owned anything bigger than my cloths and now suddenly all this, its a hard thing to accept right away. Not as serious as your problem but to me something just as hard.” he admitted as she smiled and agreed it must have been a shock.

      “Can I ask a question?” She asked after a while, and he nodded and waited.”Did you really use Explosion Magic to make the pool and then stand there covered all in mud?” She asked as he laughed and said he did... and she burst out laughing too... saying she was sorry she missed it.

      “You should have seen the one I did up at the farm, it was one big blast. I actually blew myself over that time, so this one was a few smaller shots.” he admitted as she laughed at him and they talked like old friends while waiting on the Castle Guards to come get her...but they never came... and so James gave her a bed for the night, as far away from his as possible, to her immediate dislike.

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      Chapter 19: House Guest

      James knew any second now the Royal Guards would come riding in to get the Princess, but after breakfast the next day they still weren’t here, and he looked upset, and Cherry looked thrilled.

      “Father seems to have given up, so now it looks like I’m yours.” Cherry hinted as they sat on the porch talking after breakfast.

      “Don’t ever say such a thing!” he demanded as she looked surprised that he felt this strongly about it.”You’re a good person not just a Princess, and you look a lot like your mother, and thats not a bad thing either. But we barely know each other and having sex and making children just to upset your Father isn’t something I’d go along with.” he insisted as she looked impressed he had thought it out this far.

      “Wait...you like the way my mother looks? You pervert.” She insisted and then laughed as James did to.

      “Don’t laugh, you know what I mean, all you girls look a lot like her and she’s a beautiful woman... they say to see a girl later in life, look at her mother... so none of you have anything to worry about.” he hinted as she smiled pretty wide, yes, they had heard a lot of nice things about their mother over the years, and her dad looked very happy too, so maybe James wasn’t being a perv over nothing, and in some ways this was a compliment.

      “So what will you do if the Guard doesn’t come?” Cherry asked softly, as James looked tired thinking it.

      “Only one thing makes sense.” James said as she saw the wheels turning, and he looked so serious and she smiled wide seeing it. “Your Mother is in on this, in some way she’s testing me and you to see if we can be trusted...or...to give your Father a hard time. You people do put too much stress on him you know.” he hinted as she chuckled to herself and all this sounded more than a little possible.

      “SO?” She hinted as James sat back thinking.

      “You can stay a few days...” he hinted as she looked happy hearing it.” But I’ll return you to your Father in the same perfect condition you arrived in.” he demanded as she nearly laughed out loud at that, and James saw her face trying to hide it.” She is the Queen after all...” He added as she agreed and they sat back to enjoy some free time together, and later that day they did some swimming and they started acting like old friends even more.

      “OH MY GOD!” King John was saying, hiding in his room and looking panicked.” By now she’s been stripped naked and thrown down and....OH GOD!...” he went on as the Queen walked in looking positively disgusted with him and he hung on her crying.

      “Get a grip John...it’s only been a day... trust him and her for once, I think you’ll be very surprised.” She demanded, as he looked up almost begging that it be true.”How will you act when one of our daughters gets married if dating gets you this upset?” She asked, as he said that was TOTALLY different, if something came of that it would be a happy occasion, not something to be discussed and laughed about behind people’s backs.

      “For the love of the Gods, please settle down, you have Royal business this after noon.” She hinted as he waved it all away saying this takes precedence, but she wasn’t going along with that at all. “My spies say they’re acting very civilized. They ate together he gave her a room to stay in...WAY...down at the end of the hall.” She went on laughing as he looked hopeful.

      “He’s probably waiting for us to send an escort for her, and he hasn’t left the Estate since she got there, so there’s nothing to worry about.” She added as John finally looked a little better, and she all but pushed him out of the room to get some business done.

      “Send for her at once!” John said to the nearest Guard as he turned to go, and the Queen stopped him.

      “We’ll wait a little longer.” She demanded, as John looked like running back inside as she dragged him to the throne room. “They’ll be coming back soon, I’ll wager.” And that ended that discussion right there.

      Two days later James had her horse ready and his was right along side it. She got on looking all the part of a young adventurer with her sword and dagger at her side and James got on his and a door opened a second later, but she held back looking at it as he looked oddly at her.

      “We cant just ride back like normal people?” She added as he laughed and said they were NOT normal people and her dad probably had Guards waiting by the gate to arrest him.

      They went through and came out in front of the main gate and rode inside as people chuckled and waved as James tried to act very serious and when she got off and took her bag with her he made a loud declaration that, ‘the princess is back from vacation, safe and sound.’ And then turned and rode out to disappear a second later. Cherry took her things back up those big stairs and at the top was her mother, all smiles.

      “Did you learn what you wanted to know?” She asked as Cherry nodded she did.

      “He’s a strong young man in both body and morals. He’s not some weak person that can be maneuvered or pushed around easily...you know... like daddy.” She whispered, as she ran past laughing and the Queen got a good laugh, maybe this wasn’t a bad idea at all.

      Cherry went into her room and started putting her things away and one after the other her sisters walked in to ask if she was alright, or still a virgin yet, as she gave her older sister a hard look.

      “Oh... Alice I asked like you wanted and yes...all muddy... and even got too close once and got blown over.” Cherry said as the two of them got a good laugh but the older sister looked lost for a minute.

      “He used Explosion Magic to make a pool to swim in and got too close and BANG! Got covered in mud and dirty water.” Alice said as even Princess Cassandra got a chuckle at that.

      “He sounds like a joker.” She admitted but Cherry was quick to say that he wasn’t like that, he just got in a hurry and since he used Magic everyday, he never thought a thing about it...but he would now.

      “And this man refused you?” She asked as Cherry admitted he did, but that she wasn’t discouraged about it.

      “If he jumped in instantly he would have disappointed me.” She admitted and even the Queen, standing outside smiled at that.” Oh... he says we’re all good looking because we look like mom, and he says that looking at the mother tells you what the girls will look like later on...and we have nothing to worry about.” She admitted and the sisters laughed about that and the Queen walked back to the throne room completely red in the face, while that might be true, she was surprised this young man thought that far ahead.

      Chapter 20: The Word Gets Out

      James finally got to go see his friends at the Guild Hall and when he walked in a few asked where he had been for the last few days.

      “Baby sitting a Princess.” he said softly as many froze up and refused to ask anything else. “Don’t worry, she came by to see my new place and test her dads nerves for a couple days, after that I took her home, good as new.” he said as many there just shook their heads saying that all John’s children were pretty girls, and they didn’t know a single young man they would trust with one overnight, much less a few days.

      “Someone testing that idea would be in the deepest darkest dungeon by now. I like sunlight.” James hinted as he ordered a drink and people roared around him.

      “Which one was it, was it Cassandra?” He heard as Janice walked up and he shook his head no, it wasn’t.

      “Cherry...” He said as everyone in the room got quiet and he asked why.

      “Thats the middle one right? About the same age as you?” Janice asked as he said she was 17 just like him and she seemed to think he needed a wife , like many other people who had been pushing him for a while now, and people all agreed that 17 wasn’t too young at all, some people get married at 15 here, and James said well he wasn’t one of them, and by now King John had finally breathed again after the last 3 days.

      “She stayed over for 3 days??” Janice screamed, as a few others looked like they’d choke on their drinks.” You had a PRINCESS living with you for 3 days??” Janice screamed, as James declared then and there nothing happened, and Janice finally looked away smiling and asked if he had ever been dropped on his head as a child, and James gave her a dirty look while many people there laughed at him.

      “I have a boyfriend and I don’t even stay there for 3 days, thats just asking for trouble.” Janice hinted as James pretended not to hear. “ Now Cassandra, she has a bit of a reputation for looking for men to try out. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if it was her, she does things like that just to upset her father I hear.” She hinted and James said he hadn’t met that one yet, and he told them about the Queen, King and two girls coming for dinner, and a few asked him why he bothered with them at all, and he laughed saying that even he needed to make a living because ‘things arent cheap’ he remarked, and many there just shook their heads at his naivete.

      “Oh and I need to hire someone else for my place...again...” he said as many just laughed.” It looks like I need a stable hand. I cant be doing everything myself.” he admitted as Janice whispered it didn’t look like he did anything at all... and some looked away with huge grins.

      “I am so go to swat you..” James hinted as the room roared.

      They planned a nice quest that afternoon and started it early the next morning. A few Dire Wolves had left the pit and started attacking the local farms, and again the quest came up to get rid of them.

      They found a half eaten calf and James used ‘search’ to get them on the right track, and after an hour riding they found a gully filled with thick brush and small trees and his skill told him they were there, and they dropped a stink bomb to lure them out, and more than 20 ran out to see, as even James gasped, and he looked around and said ‘a few?’ and even Janice just shrugged at that one. They opened fire with arrows, fire, everything they had, and a few fire bombs later, their swordsmen were getting into the act, as James fired to keep some others away while they finished the ones that rushed them.

      “What the Hell!?” James screamed as he even had to draw his dagger to stop one that got through his wall of fire. “This has to be the whole colony!!” he screamed and dozens fell from fire and arrows and a dozen more from swords and knives, and after more than an hour, they were all sitting and laying around the battlefield among dead animals that stretched on as far as the eye could see.

      “Someone get the ears for us.” James gasped, as Adam laughed laying not 6 meters away and said ‘screw you, you get them’ and everyone laughed.

      “In a minute...” James hinted and even he had a hard time getting back up.

      “Harder than baby sitting a horny Princess?” Someone said softly as James laughed out loud and screamed...’bring on another 20‘ and the field rang out with laughter.

      “Do you like guys?” Adam asked straight out, as James turned from his work and gave him a really dirty look as the rest got a big kick out of that one.

      “ If I had met any of those girls in some bar, there wouldn’t be a seconds hesitation.” James hinted as many there agreed, with their bright blond hair, ample bosoms and tight little behinds, they were all the spitting image of the Queen, who was spoken of as the sexiest woman in the region, and no one argued the point. Add to that her outstanding....shoulders...and she could get any man ...and she did.

      “I hear Cherry is the middle girls name.” Ira hinted, as a few chuckled under their breath.” Might be a hint there.” he said as he helped James get the proof they’d need for this marathon killing spree.

      “I wont argue that she’s a pretty girl.” James said after a while. But she’s a Princess...and I’m just a working guy...and those two things will never change.” He said and everyone saw he was being serious and so the teasing stopped for now, ignoring his title, as he had asked them to before.

      But the talk back in the bar was heard by just the right people, and Duke Mennington’s spies made it quickly back to his castle with news that the newest Baron was on the lookout for a wife, and the Duke was thrilled. Because not only did he like the man...no small feat...but he had a trouble maker he needed dealt with, and later that afternoon Sherry was on the way to his place, and she met him at the door later that night when he got home and he looked like he’d faint.

      “Why are you here?” James asked as she got really embarrassed and they sat by the fire in the living room and she told him about her father finding out he was looking for a wife, and since she never listened to him anyways, she got chosen to be their offering.

      “Not the Duke too..” James whispered as she looked confused.” First the Princess and now you...nobody listens to me at all.” he hinted as she asked which Princess he was talking about, and after a few minutes talking she was laughing pretty hard.

      “One of the Golden Princesses of Atlantia lived with you for 3 days and you refused her? Thats got to be some record.” She hinted as James reminded her that when she went home she’d be the same and she reminded him she wasn’t a porcelain doll, she liked men, and knew what they liked, and it seemed like James might have met his match with this one, but he wasn’t going to give in a step, and the battle lines were drawn.

      And as that scene was taking place one of Catherine’s spies rode to the castle and informed her things were getting complicated, and she looked seriously pissed that her plan for James was in jeopardy.

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