Essence Of The Heart (The Royal Tutor)

BOOK: Essence Of The Heart (The Royal Tutor)
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Essence Of The Heart

The Royal Tutor

 

By

Daris Howard

 

Copyright
©
2006

by

Daris Howard

 

Copying any part of this book, without written permission, is

strictly prohibited.

 

For more information go to:

publishinginspiration.com

 

Publishing Date: January 2013

 

Publishing Inspiration LLC

 

Chapter 1
The Attack

 

          The sun was still far below the horizon, barely putting a glimmer of
light into the sky, when four men, shrouded in black, darted across the
palace courtyard. How they got inside the walls of the palace was a
mystery, but they moved quickly, yet quietly, to the wall on the west wing -
the wing where the royal family lived. A slight fog concealed their
movements.

 

          Moving like muted shadows within the shadows, they seemed to
know their destination all too well. They slid quietly along the wall. The
leader retrieved a large grapple hook from his sack. Deftly he coiled the
rope in his left hand, taking the hook in the other.

 

          He swung the hook, once, twice, three times to get momentum, then
let it fly toward the third floor balcony. It landed with a slight pinging
sound. He pulled it, but it didn't catch anything; instead, it fell at his feet
onto the cobblestone with another pinging sound. He cursed quietly as he
started coiling the rope for another throw.

 

          Suddenly, a figure appeared from the shadows dressed in the blue of
the Royal Guard. He came with no warning, moving quickly and with even
more stealth than the would-be assassins. He was on them before they saw
him coming.

 

          But there were four of them. The leader of the assassins continued
to work the rope unabated as his comrades dealt with this Royal
Guardsman. But he was more than they bargained for. He drove the three
of them back with the swift movements of his sword and kicks with his feet,
ducking every advance. As the other three assassins were forced to fall
back, their leader muttered another curse as he was forced to draw his own
sword.

 

          Tiring fast, the single Royal Guardsman was still holding his own
when a stately figure appeared from behind him. The new defender was
medium tall with broad shoulders, and was not dressed as a Guardsman, but
as a man of nobility. Thinking this unexpected arrival would be easy to deal
with, one of the assassins broke off to face him alone. In this he was sadly
mistaken. The nobleman parried his every move, quickly disarming him.
The assassins found themselves facing two defenders that each appeared to
match their entire group single-handedly. The leader, recognizing the noise
from the swords would soon draw a horde of Guardsmen, ordered his men
to withdraw.

 

          They turned for the outer walls. But the walls that they had worked
so hard to penetrate now became their prison. The assassins found
themselves cornered with the two defenders at their backs. Suddenly the
whole courtyard was full of Guardsmen.

 

          In a quick response to their leader's command, the assassins, who
still had swords, raised them to the upright, a sign of surrender. The first
Guardsmen on the scene ordered his comrades to surround the intruders. He
then demanded their swords. They hesitated, as if unsure of the request. He
motioned for what he wanted and all three remaining swords were dropped
to the ground.

 

          As the sun started to break over the hills, the 'Captain' insignia
could plainly be seen on the shoulder of the first Guardsman. None of the
men there were surprised to see him at the front of the fight, willing and
able to take on multiple assailants.

 

          Some of them were much more surprised at the nobleman, though it
wasn't the first time he had come to their aid. For there, as in times past,
standing stately before them, was none other than Lord High Chamberlain,
the Prime Minister to the Queen. Where had a nobleman learned to fight
like that? Lord High Chamberlain took charge of the prisoners, marching
them off with the support of most of the Royal Guard.

 

          Soon, only three Royal Guardsmen were left - Captain Richins and
his two officers and best friends, Lieutenant John Hashner and Sergeant
Edward Elliston.

 

          "Who were they?" John asked.

 

          Jacob shrugged. " I don't know. I caught them trying to sneak into
the palace - the west wing."

 

          "What should we do with them, Sir?" Edward asked.

 

          "Have them interrogated. We must find out what they wanted."

 

          "Edward saluted and left to relay the command. As he disappeared
from sight, John noticed that Jacob's sleeve was torn, blood oozing from the
opening. "You have a wound, Sir."

 

          "It is only a flesh wound," Jacob replied. "It's not a big deal."

 

          John frowned. "You should have called for help."

 

          Jacob laughed. "You try finding breath to call for help while
fighting four assailants. I'm glad Lord High Chamberlain got there when he
did."

 

          "I can't understand why Lord High Chamberlain always seems to be
one of the first ones there," John said.

 

          "That I can't answer," Jacob replied

 

          "And why didn't we hear them, and you did?"

 

          Jacob grinned. "That, my friend, is why I am Captain of the Royal
Guard, and you are a lieutenant."

 

          John laughed. "And obviously your high academy score didn't have
anything to do with it, nor the fact that your father was Captain before you."

 

          Jacob looked amused behind his grinning eyes. " Of course not! It
was all skill."

 

          John chuckled at his friend's good natured conceit. "Of course. But
I must admit, my friend, that I'd much rather have you on my side than
against me."

 

          The sound of footsteps echoed on the cobblestone, and they turned
to see Edward returning. He approached and saluted. "Sir, I'm afraid we
will get very little from them right now because we can't understand them.
We think they are from Esconodia."

 

          Jacob nodded his agreement. "They look like they are, and they are
very good fighters - well trained. Since they were trying to enter the west
wing they must have planned to assassinate the queen."

 

          "But, Sir," John mused, "How would they know which section of
the palace was which?"

 

          Jacob shook his head. "I don't know. But to slip past our sentries
they must know a lot. We must find out what they were up to. We'll have
to get an interpreter. "

 

          "But what purpose could the Esconodians have in assassinating the
queen?" John asked.

 

          Jacob shrugged. "I don't understand all of the political games. I am,
after all, just a Captain of the Guard."

 

          The sun broke into full view above the mountain. The birds started
their song, welcoming the new day. As the sun's rays spread across the
valley, the fog dissipated before its warming rays.

 

          The clatter of pans could be heard in the palace kitchen as the
servants started preparing breakfast. From the village below the palace a
rooster could be heard crowing. People were starting to walk across the
courtyard, busily hurrying to their assignments.

 

          "Sir, our shift has almost ended," John said. "Would you like to join
us for some refreshment?"

 

          Jacob shook his head. "Maybe later. Right now I am studying about
Plato's paradox of knowledge. He says either we already know what we are
looking for, in which case we don't need to look, or we don't know what
we're looking for, in which case we wouldn't recognize it if we found it. He
shares the idea..."

 

          John rolled his eyes. "Sir, you aren't going to bore us with thoughts
by another dead man, are you?"

 

          "Plato was one of the most interesting men that ever lived," Jacob
replied.

 

          Edward wagged his head. "And he said he would rather not have a
monument than have people ask why he had one."

 

          Jacob frowned. "'I would much rather have men ask why I have no
statue than why I have one,' was by Cato the Elder, the great Roman
orator."

 

          "How about this one?" John said. "Live for today and forget what
old people say."

 

          Jacob furrowed his brow. "I'm not familiar with that one. Who said
that?"

 

          John pulled himself up tall, trying his best to act regally. "The Great
John Hashner."

 

          John and Edward both laughed. Jacob smiled as he spoke. "Great,
John. We'll have it engraved on your tombstone."

 

          John grinned. "Well, if you won't join us, we'll be leaving you."

 

          They saluted, and Jacob returned their salute. They went on their
way, leaving him alone. He was checking his sword when Lord High
Chamberlain came up quietly behind him. He stood there silently, then
finally cleared his throat and spoke. "Captain?"

 

          Jacob turned quickly and bowed, surprised that he hadn't heard Lord
High Chamberlain's approach. "Yes, Sir."

 

          "At ease, Captain," Lord High Chamberlain said.

 

          Jacob smiled and relaxed. But his smile and easy demeanor quickly
faded as Lord High Chamberlain spoke again. "The queen has requested
your presence in her court immediately."

 

 

 

Chapter 2
The Unexpected Assignment

 

          When Queen Louise requested an audience, there was only one
answer, so Lord High Chamberlain turned and headed toward the throne
room, and Jacob fell into step behind him. In the three years he had been at
the palace, Jacob had never known the queen to receive nor request
audience of anyone at this time of morning. She never dealt with anything
at that hour of the day unless it was absolutely urgent. He assumed she
must have heard of the attack and was calling him in to find out more.

 

          But, he considered that she had never called him in before. She was
content to trust an individual to handle the duties to which he was assigned.
Every time there had been a breach in security, he had discussed it in great
detail with Lord High Chamberlain, and others on the security council, but
never with the queen.

 

          By the time they reached the door into the palace, his breath was
coming quickly, accompanied by the pounding of his heart. His mind was
racing as he tried to think of what he could say to put the queen's mind at
ease about the security situation.

 

          As they proceeded down the long hall to the throne room, everyone
seemed to stop and stare. Jacob didn't know if he was imagining it, or if
they were talking about him. The farther they walked the more somber
everyone seemed, from the oldest noblemen gossiping, on down to the
maids scrubbing the floor.

 

          By the time they reached the throne room, the din of the courtyard
had faded far behind. As they stepped inside, the silence pounded in his
ears. When the large oak doors shut behind them, the huge hall and the
stillness within mixed to give the feeling of a morgue.

 

          Jacob found himself lagging behind as they approached the throne,
and he had to quicken his pace to catch up. He was sure the only sound in
the room was coming from his heart, which was trying to climb out his
throat.

 

          Lord High Chamberlain didn't even pause before the queen, but took
his place at her side as Jacob bowed himself before her.

 

          She was dressed in a long sleeping gown, which was covered with a
velvet robe. Her robe was open slightly, and her hair was disheveled. He
had never seen her this way before. Every other time he had been in her
presence she had always been dressed meticulously, and her hair was
impeccable.

 

          The queen was facing away from him and did not immediately look
at him, but seemed deep in thought, as if contemplating his demise. Slowly,
she turned toward him. "You may rise, Captain. Lord High Chamberlain
informs me that there was another attempted breach of security."
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