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Authors: C. Dale Brittain,Brittain

Tags: #Fantasy Fiction; American, #Science Fiction, #General, #Fantasy, #Fiction

Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint- Wizard of Yurt - 2

BOOK: Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint- Wizard of Yurt - 2
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Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint- Wizard of Yurt - 2
Wizard of Yurt [2]
C. Dale Brittain Brittain
Baen (1993)
Rating:
★★★★☆
Tags:
Fantasy Fiction; American, Science Fiction, General, Fantasy, Fiction

New light fantasy from the author of, Bad Spell in Yurt. When the king goes on vacation, Daimbert, wizard to the king, learns there's a great deal to be said for the quiet life, as he faces an all-too-beguiling wood nymph, a plague of magical horned rabbits, a scandalous duchess's fondess for young wizards, and a zombie-like creature made with spells they never taught at wizard school.

The Wood Nymph And The Cranky Saint

Wizard of Yurt, Book 2

C. Dale Brittain

1993

Part One. The Hermitage

When it was over, the living back where they belonged—or someplace else—and the dead buried, I thought again of the day it al began. I wanted to keep Yurt the charming, bucolic, little out-of-the-way kingdom it was, but I had also wished for a little excitement.

A wizard should know better than to wish for something. Sometimes wishes come true.

As Royal Wizard, arrayed in midnight-blue velvet, I was supposed to give an air of deep wisdom to the court proceedings. But I no longer nad the slightest idea what that days case was about.

My king, however, seemed to have an excelent grasp of the details. I leaned against the wal and watched him. King Haimeric bent forward on the throne, puling his ermine-trimmed cloak tighter around his thin shoulders as the late afternoon breeze came in the open doors and windows of the great hal.

He settled his spectacles more firmly on his nose

and looked at the people before him with shrewd eyes. “So even though he struck you, he didn’t try to deny that you had a right to bring your cows into the field? ‘

“Of course he didn’t deny it!”

“I only struck him when he started beating me with his stick!”

“Don’t listen to him! You can’t believe someone who’d dig up a grave!”

“Listen to his lies!”

“Look at my leg; the bruises are there yet!”

“His wife was the worst, and she knew she could thump me al she wanted because I wouldn’t hit a woman!”

“Anyone can tel you I cleared every stump out of that field with my own hands!”

Two dozen men and women, al from a vilage located five miles away, stood in front of the throne. I stil hadn’t sorted out which were the claimants, which members of their families, and which the character witnesses they had brought along. A young woman with straight flaxen hair was crying openly. Over to one side, apart from the rest, a man with very broad shoulders was moodily examining the tiles of the fireplace as though trying to dissociate himself from the whole quarrel.

The knights of Yurt, ranged along the wal to help give authority to the proceedings, looked both bored and tired, with an air of having long ago stopped hearing what anyone said. Even the kings burly nephew Dominic, who used to pay very close attention to legal cases, had wandered off, but then he had been acting somewhat distracted lately anyway.

During pauses in the arguments, I could hear faint clangings from the kitchen. The smels of supper gradualy became more pronounced. Several times already a servant had peeked around the door to see if we were done yet.

Abruptly, King Haimeric pushed aside his lap robe and stood up. “I ve heard enough!” he exclaimed. The excited arguing of the group before him stopped short.

“You brought this to me as a property dispute,” he said sternly. “But both your documents of property

rights and your witnesses are highly suspect and highly contradictory.”

“We already told you, Your Highness, that they stole our deed and substituted a lying fake!” one woman put in bravely.

“And it’s become clear,” the king continued, not even pausing for the interruption, ‘ that much more than property is involved. This field has become the excuse for verbal abuse and for physical violence, which you know I consider intolerable. Some of you have even claimed that others have dug up somebody’s relative and hidden the body—don’t interrupt me! And now you’ve told me that the quarrel over this field has even been the cause of a serious breach of promise.”

I had missed this final detail amid everything else, but it explained the weeping young woman.

“If those of you who were in the wrong originaly,” the king continued, “hoped that by utter confusion you would avoid a ruling against you, you are mistaken.” Al of the principal disputants looked jubilant, as though secure in the knowledge that not they but the others had originaly been in the wrong.

But the king’s next words took the smiles from their faces. “Al of you are in the wrong. This case cannot be settled by a simple determination of right.” I certainly agreed with him there. I even had to abandon what would have been my own solution, to divide the field down the middle between the two claimants—if indeed there were only two.

The king crossed his arms and glared. “I have only one option left to me. I am going to swear you to peace H

The knights al straightened to attention and slapped their sword hilts ritualy.

“But in that case—” someone began.

Again the king paid no attention. “You wil have to work out for yourselves who has the right to plow and gather, who to pasture cows on the stubble, where your cousin is buried now, and who wil many whom, but you wil have to do it without violence!”

He turned and motioned toward Joachim, the Royal Chaplain, who had been standing on the other side of the throne from me. A dissatisfied murmuring and shuffling began with the king’s words but stopped immediately as the chaplain came forward, carrying a heavy Bible in both hands.

He was as young as I and didn’t even have my wizardly white beard to give an aura of mysterious wisdom. But the absolute seriousness of his gaunt face and his enormous and compeling black eyes always gave him an air of dignity and authority that I knew I would never be able to equal. This was made even worse by the knowledge that in his case the effect was entirely unintentional.

The chaplain set the Bible on a table beside the king. “Come forward!” the king commanded. “Each of you, put your right hand on the Bible. Swear before God and the saints that you wil practice violence no more, but that you wil seek peace with these your neighbors.”

With covert glances at the tal and silent chaplain, al the disputants and al their witnesses came forward, abashed, and swore individualy. The broad-shouldered young man came over from the fireplace to swear last of al.

“Now take each other by the hands in felowship,” the king continued. “Al of you. Take each one’s hand to symbolize the peace that now exists between you.” The flaxen-haired woman, her cheeks stil wet but no longer weeping, went at once to the young man. She stopped as though abruptly shy two feet short of him, but he reached for her hands and said something to her. She slowly started to smile. While the rest went back and forth, shaking each other’s hands, sometimes with what I thought unnecessary firmness, the two stood silently, looking at each other’s faces.

When the whole group left a moment later, they were stil holding hands.

The king, the chaplain, and I went out into the courtyard with them and through the gates, to watch them walk down the hil from the royal castle of Yurt. The sun was low and red in the west. The king continued to stare sternly after them until they were out of sight.

“Wel,” said King Haimeric in satisfaction, his usual good humor reappearing as soon as they were gone, I don’t think wel hear from them again. And that’s the last of this month’s cases. I don’t know about you two, but I find giving justice hungry work. It’s hard for an old man to have to wait for supper!”

We went back into the great hal where, just in the few moments we had been gone, the servants had iluminated the magic lamps that dated back to my predecessor’s time and brought out the trestle tables for supper. Now they were spreading the tablecloths and lighting the fire in the fireplace. In the little balcony high on the wal, the castle’s brass choir tuned their instruments.

“In fact,” said the king, “there shouldn’t be any more urgent cases this summer. I think I deserve a vacation, say for a month or six weeks. How would you two like to try running the kingdom?” The chaplain and I exchanged surprised glances. In the two years I had been wizard of Yurt, I had never known the king to leave his castle for more than a few days at a time.

“You mean,” I said, “exercising royal authority—” I had only recently managed to make myself into a passably competent wizard, and it would certainly be a chalenge to become a competent substitute for a king.

The king smiled. “No, I wouldn’t realy make you two act as regents. But I am serious about taking a vacation.”

The knights and ladies of the royal court were

assembling in the hal. The queen came in, carrying the baby boy al of us considered the most important person in the castle. His nurse hurried behind, frustrated as usual because the queen kept stepping in to do things the nurse felt were her proper duties.

“So you finished up the last case?” said the queen, smiling at the king affectionately. She was less than half his age and the most beautiful woman I had ever met in my life. “I’m sure you handled them al with justice and wisdom.”

She set the little prince down on the flagstone floor. He crawled determinedly to the table, took hold of a table leg, and started cautiously puling himself to a standing position. His face carried an expression of intense concentration.

The queen caught him just before he reached the tablecloth. Holding onto one of her hands with both of his, the prince swayed a little but remained standing and gave a wide smile of triumph. He already had four teeth. “Dwrg,” he said.

“Did you hear that?” asked the queen in delight. “He caled you ‘Daddy.’”

The king seemed happy to believe it. I decided not to mention that just the day before the little prince had looked directly at me and indubitably said, “Gizward.” Above us, the brass choir began to play and we went to our seats, the king at the head of the main table and the queen, with the prince in her lap, at the foot.

The king had said nothing to the queen in my hearing about a vacation. I glanced again toward the chaplain, whose place was directly across the table from mine. He gave a slight shrug, with no better idea than I. Could the king realy be planning to leave Yurt?

Servants brought steaming trays from the kitchen and we al began to eat, too hungry for more than minimal conversation. It was early summer when the days are longest, and yet the sun was setting outside.

But as we reached dessert, people settled back more comfortably to talk. I sat at the table, as I always did, with the queen’s aunt on my right side and the king’s nephew on my left.

Dominic, royal nephew and presumptive heir until the birth of the baby prince, was built along the lines of a bear, large and solid. The layer of fat that had begun to replace his muscles did not conceal the fact that plenty of muscle stil remained. Like a bear, too, he moved slowly—these last few months especialy—but there was always the suggestion that he could move very rapidly if he wanted to.

The Lady Maria, on the other hand, gave an impression of constant motion even when quite stil. Although, in the two years since I had come to Yurt, her golden curls had turned a rather attractive ash gray and she had given up lacy gowns for dark colors and severe styles, her manner stil verged on the girlish.

“I’m always so impressed with King Haimeric when he gives judgment,” she told me. “He cuts right through to the truth!”

“He certainly had a complicated case this afternoon,” I agreed.

“I’m sure it’s a great help to him to have the assistance of a Royal Wizard at his side!” she added with a smile. “Our old wizard hardly ever assisted in legal affairs.” The implied insult to my predecessor, I realized, was actualy supposed to be a compliment to me. “I can claim no credit, my lady; the settlement today was al the king’s idea.” It was interesting to hear that my predecessor had not stood, as I had, through long afternoons of complicated quarrels. I could appreciate his point of view. Listening to dul court cases was not the chalenge to my magical powers I had anticipated when becoming a royal wizard.

BOOK: Wood Nymph and the Cranky Saint- Wizard of Yurt - 2
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