The Further (Mis)Adventures of Princess Thumperhead started as a "post by email" that I wrote in college. When I moved away from school, the story widened and took on a different role for me, hence the Jester's Chronicles. Quite some time has past now and I find that I am returning to telling this weird little story, or The Trials. I suggest starting from the beginning. Some characters have been around that long...In April 2012, this story will turn 15. ....and Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Trials IV: With Integrity.

"Get up, you arrogant bastard!" the jailer said to the resident of the dungeon.  The man in the cell, slowly pulls himself to his feet, being careful to dust off some of the dirt and filth common to his current locality.

"And good morning to you, fair Innkeep.  Does the Queen require my services today?"  the redheaded man said with more grace that one would think possible in the dank bowels of the castle.

"You swine's son, dontcha dare be speaking foully of my queen.  A good and right honororable queen she be." The jailer responded.

"Oh, my good man, the tales I could tell you about your dear Queen would curl your toes, of that I am quite certain.  But you did not rouse me from my rest to share, with you, tales of the past.  How may I be of service to you?" The brash nobleman replied, a small twinkle of mischief in his eye.

"Shackles for you, your grace.  Seems the Queen be wanting your audience today." Pulling out a pair of arm irons, the guard reaches through the bars and secures the prisoner's wrists.  Once done, the jailer opens the cell door and the scruffy nobleman steps out and heads up the stairs to where he used to freely roam.

"My good man, one of these days you will learn to offer your guests a clean tub of water and a decent meal.  Oh the food is dreadful."  The redhead begins his list of observations about the facility and the way it is run.  There are four hundred and forty two steps to the top of the floor that the Queen is on.  There two hundred and twenty one "observations".  This is not the first time in the last six years these two men have had this conversation.

Arriving at the throne room, "And dearest Innkeeper, the other denizens, and by that I do mean the rats you keep, really must be kept on another level.  Their raucous frivolity is more than one can stand, as one must get one's beauty rest.  Ah, I see we've arrived.  You must take down my suggestions, I think". 

"Shut it.  You'll have the same story on the morrow, no need for fancy writings, 'bout got the list memorized now.  Come to collect you 'bout an hour, your Grace." the Jailer turned to leave the anteroom and was taken aback by the change in the normal ending to their almost daily conversation.

"I'm afraid not, my good man.  I fear our time has grown short and this shall be our last conversation."  With that, the disgraced Ambassador strode confidently into the Queen's throne room.
Placed squarely high atop a dais, the Queen held court as the Ambassador glanced over to where his former seat stood, still unoccupied.

On his chair sat a scroll.  A scroll sealed three times.  A blue wax seal, a black wax seal, and a red wax seal.  The Ambassador did not even have to see the Book, the Skull, nor the Dragon pressed into those seals to know who had sent the scroll.  With a deft and practiced movement, the shackles unlocked and slipped from his arms.  At the sound of the shackles hitting the stone floor, all hell broke loose.  The members of the court began to scream at the site of a newly freed prisoner. The guards standing around the perimeter began to move in to apprehend the very dangerous man now standing a few dozen feet from their Queen.

The fugitive, more sensing then seeing the threats, breaks into a run towards the west wall of the room.  Ducking and weaving between pole-arms and pikemen, the nimble young man gracefully slips between the sergeant's legs and is up and running again.
The Queen sees her men surround the former noble, but impossibly he slips through her forces and throws himself through a window.

A moment later, a loud splash is heard from the river below and the guards begin shouting out the newly formed hole in the glass, to arrest that man.

Under her breath, Queen duClarque says "Goodbye Dar Benedict, I hope this works."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Trials III: These Men

The loud clamor of gears grinding, soldiers marching, and the land burning was like music to the General’s ears.  As he sat astride a mammoth war machine in his command tent, Di’Rand looked over the maps of the lands he had concurred.  His mandate had been simple.  Increase the borders by four hundred fold.  He had almost doubled that.  The Empire of Gothex now stretched from the mountains in the East to the mighty river in the west and as far north and south as was inhabitable.  He had been at war for almost a decade, when the most curious thing happened.

A black pigeon alighted on the corner of his table.  Di’Rand studied the creature and soon saw a death’s head pattern had been painted onto the wing of the pigeon.  “Saing.  No one else would be so arrogant.  Ten years at war for him and he sends me a bird.”  The warmonger notices the note tied to the bird's leg.

Unrolling the tiny manuscript, Di’Rand reads Saing’s tight script. 

“Return.  Generals Counsel.  The Fool Lives.”

The army’s general calls out to his aide-de-camp to get his horse.  The army proceeds south as its leadership mounts fierce looking horses bred for speed.  Di’Rand and his top three commanders head for home.  “Lord General…why the haste?  Has Gothex fallen?”  Commander Goettch inquires.

The burly general responds with “That damned Fool will get us all killed.”  But the message is lost in the din of horses galloping toward their home fields.

After a day’s hard ride the four men, stop their horses at the top of a hill overlooking a valley.  In the center of the devastation, is a large blasted and broken stone edifice.

“The power well.  So many good men lost to that contraption.  So much blood split to defeat those wizards.” reminisces Goettch.

“True commander, but a hard fought victory brought us many spoils of war.”

“Yes, Lord General.” Geottch responds shifting in his saddle “Sir, how do you plan to arrive in time?  We are still some eight days ride away and we left the war machines to continue the campaign.”

“Ah…Goettch, your loyalty and your skill in battle are your greatest gifts.  But Cristos was made provisions for our timely arrival the will give the horses time to rest.” the tactical genius replied.

A huge shadow moved across the men and their horses, as though a cloud was blocking the sun.  A growling hum burned the air.  The four men turned at once to see a huge air ship slip down from the clouds.  It bristled with guns and cannon decks.  Like a giant dragon floating down to earth, the monstrous contraption settled into a hover just off the hillside.

“General, your chariot awaits!” Sir Cristos calls from the gun rail.  A boarding ramp extends from the main deck to come to rest on the hill top.  The General’s contingent wheel their horses and ride up the ramp onto the main deck of the war ship.  “Make best speed for Gothex, captain!  The General’s aboard.”  The air ship slowly turns and disappears into the clouds.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Trials II: To Serve.

Captain Valis, see to the man.  Your fate and his are now intertwined.  I do not know if that is a blessing or curse.” Saing snarled.

“Yes, my lord and thank you.” Valis turned on heel and almost ran from the room.
Saing turned his attention to the scroll.  Breaking the seals in a specified order, his own last, he begins to read.

Things are not as they seem.  My flight from Gothex has not been in vain.  P’ jai’ us is no more.  Their powers failed and their wizards were smashed by Commander Tintar’s forces.  Just as the sun was rising, word came of a more ominous threat.  Dar Benedict is missing in the south.  His agents report that there are traitors in the Court.  Gregor, Azon, Augustus seek to move against the King.  Lady de’ Gruse hired an assassin to kill the King and Saing.  They are all in league together.

I expect war within the coming months.  I will work to secure Benedict’s safety and root out any other traitors in our midst.  I do not know when I shall return to my beloved Gothex, but I intend to send word.

Your faithful servant,
The Jester”

“Nine years ago, he knew?  Nine years!”  Saing’s rage boiled over.  “That bastard, nine years.  The loss, the betrayals…so much gone now.”  Gripping the edge of the table, Saing flips the massive oak war table onto its face, maps fly everywhere.

Almost yelling, the baron says, “Commander Kreal, take your Gloomwalkers and flank the SouthGate barracks.  No one is to know this man is alive.  As soon as he can travel, bring him to me!”

Kreal, a hulk of a man, steps from the recess that he had been standing in.  The timbers of the room shuttered as he responds “As you wish my lord.”

As Kreal passes through the doorway into the hall, eight massive warriors materialize out of the mists and shadows.  As the nine men march to the SouthGate, denizens go into buildings and pull closed their shutters.  The Gloomwalkers’ reputation precedes them like a faint whiff of death or the fleeting moment of a nightmare.  As they approach the SouthGate barracks, the troopers fan out in a protective barrier.  Assuming their posts, the nine soldiers disappear, in the blink of an eye.

Inside the barracks, Valis paces back and forth while looking at the man lying on the stretcher.  So near to death, Valis thinks Whatever did he do to earn the, what’s the word…admiration, is the Baron capable of admiring someone?  Respect?  Clearly, this man is important to Saing.  What did he mean 'our fates were now tied?'  

The cleric interrupts Valis’ thoughts, “Sergeant, what troubles you?  This traveler has come a very long way and is not yet dead.  He may still be revived.”

“Well the Baron very much wants to speak to him, so it’s in his best interest to live.”     

Monday, December 05, 2011

Trials I: From Hell.

Battle worn sentries stand atop of the blackened wall of the besieged city.  Squinting into the distance, looking for the glimmer of the next attack.  The field spread out before them, is broken with blood, bodies, and machines of war.  A gaunt sergeant cranes to see farther out on to the field where so many of his friends sacrificed themselves.  Movement catches his eye.

A slow shuffling, robed creature makes its way along the trade road.  The call goes up “To arms!”.  The next hour passes tensely as the shambling figure finally draws near enough to the South Gate.  The guardsmen at the gate have their spears ready, but the man, they can see that clearly enough, never makes it to the gate, collapsing a dozen feet from the portcullis.

“Make way, make way…” Sergeant Valis says shoving his way past a dozen battle hardened men.   
Valis approaches the traveler wearily.  A man for sure, but an armed man can still be dangerous.  He is carrying a dagger in his left hand and a scroll is clenched in his right hand.  He looks as though he has walked to hell and back.  Valis kneels and removes the weapon from the man who is barely breathing.  He begins to open the hand with the scroll when a hand clenches the back of his neck and begins pulling him closer to the traveler’s face.  A hoarse whisper, strains to make it to Valis’ ears.

“…too late….too late.   Trap.  Saing must know.  Scroll, Saing...”  With that last, the weary man collapses under the burden of finally delivering the message so badly needed.  The scroll comes free and Valis sees for the first time that the scroll is sealed not once but three times.  All old seals, but Valis has been in this man’s army for long enough to recognize the Seal of Baron Saing, War-Lord of the Blackened Standard and Ar’ D. Jazan, High Wizard of the Eldar Counsel.  Two extremely powerful men have sealed this scroll and therefore it must be important.  Valis calls for a cleric to get this man some water and move him to the barracks until his return.

Valis sets off at best speed to Skull Tower, where Baron Saing keeps his war counsel.  At every challenge Valis is waved through when he presents the scroll.  It acts as a magical key moving him closer and closer to Baron Saing’s viewing room.

Valis is admitted to the viewing room and is immediately overwhelmed by the sight of Saing in his charred skeletal armour.  “Speak boy, I have not the time to be wasted.”

“My lord, a messenger collapsed at South Gate bearing this…”  Valis almost threw the scroll out of fear at the lord of terror.  Saing flickes the scroll out of the soldier’s hand a begins to view the seals.

A fierce hiss, like violent death, forms words “Does this messenger carry with him a dagger?:

“Yes my lord, a funny dagger with a curious pommel.”

“Does he live?”

“Yes my lord, he was to be given water and moved to the South Gate barracks.”

“You are either wise or fated.  For your choices today, you are now a captain in my personal guard.”

“My lord, who can this man be?” Valis asked trembling at his fortune.

“Ten years I’ve waited for this man to return.  Captain, this man, before your time, this man…is the Royal Jester and he has returned.”