To Be Grand Maestro (Book 5)

BOOK: To Be Grand Maestro (Book 5)
7.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




The Maestro Chronicles


Book Five

Chapter One: The World Is Shaken


Thirty-one year old Cleona Ducalin, Queen of Ducaun, the kingdom in the center of Atlantan, reached out and touched the hand of Prince Consort Collin Tirana, the third son of Lord Jacsun Tirana. She stared up at the ceiling in the flickering lamplight. It was late in the night and they had just finished making love within the curtained confines of their huge four-poster bed. This was a luxury they would not have been able to take advantage of before the twenty-first Royal Knight of the Realm, who was also a seven-bolt Accomplished, a master wielder of life force energy, not only eliminated the Lethal Growths that were on the verge of killing her, he somehow fashioned for her the body she would have had if the malignant ailment never ravaged her innards nor laid waste to her outer form. How he managed it she had no idea, yet certainly benefitted from the results, and would be forever grateful. For the first time in years she had the enjoyment of being physically fit, was a possessor of a healthy complexion, fleshed out womanly curves, and more importantly, it was possible to become pregnant and produce a female heir to the throne. She and Collin spent most every night since her restoration at the pleasant task of trying to produce the next queen. After which they intended to strive at producing however many children their union could bring into the world.

With his dark expressive eyes, neatly trimmed mustache, and a short beard that ran along his jaw line, Col’s face was one she could fondly stare at for marks at a time, if the demands of state would ever permit such freedom. What had started out ten years ago as an arranged political marriage to the son of one of Ducaun’s most powerful and influential lords had grown into respect, friendship, and finally blossomed into a deep love they both cherished. Her current troubles threatened to darken her mood and she attempted to hide her concerns from him and not allow those distractions to ruin this shared moment.

Diplomatic relations with the city of Aakadon, home of what was considered the seven legitimate Aakacarn guilds, each ruled by their Maestro, and all of them by the Grand Maestro, were at their absolute worst, and as a result so were the relations with most of her fellow monarchs of the world. The ruling kings of Serinia, Demfilia, Ecoppia, Zune, Cenkataar, and Aczencopa, with whom she once had friendly relations, withdrew their ambassadors, refusing to communicate with her until she complied with the demands of Grand Maestro Efferin Tames to bring the realm of Ducaun down from a war footing, something she had no intention of doing.

The continuing military buildup was in preparation for the coming war against the illegitimate Aakacarn guild founded by the Dark Maestro, yet few people believed her reason for the call to muster or the looming threat. The only monarchs who still communicated with her were Clarees of Lobenia and Van Efery of Taracopa. The Lobenian Queen still considered herself to be Cleona’s friend, and yet even that friend believed Ducaun should comply with the demands of the Grand Maestro and so ordered all but one ambassador to leave Ducaun. King Van Efery had to not only deal with an embargo against his kingdom, for reasons that had nothing to do with Ducaun’s problems, he also had to put down a rebellion, a development Cleona feared might happen in her own realm. She accidentally released a sigh, a result of her thinking about the political problems within her realm, which were far more troubling than the international difficulties.

Collin rolled onto his side and with his free hand, ran fingers tenderly through her long black hair, then released the shimmering strands and fondly caressed her cheek. “You seem somewhat distracted. What has taken away the smile you had but a moment ago?” He spoke in a deep voice she often found soothing.

The attempt to conceal her negative thoughts from him had been futile and so she decided to share her concerns rather than make him think the sigh had to do with some inadequacy on his part. “Lord Tamkin, representing his coalition of northern lords, or so he says, dared to accuse me of being under the control of Sir Daniel, and pointed to the presence of the four members of the Benhannon Guard as proof the young Accomplished continues to influence my decision making.”

“Payden Sharmine and his ally Gabriel Tamkin spend most of the time in their own jurisdictions, hundreds of spans away on the shores of the Taltin Sea, and neither of them knows you personally. They have come here to express dissatisfaction with the call to muster and the resulting trade embargo. Those two nobles only know what they have heard and it suits their self-interest to believe the rumors,” Col paused to give her hand a comforting squeeze, “All of us who know you, know the decisions you are making now are consistent with the decisions you made before we ever heard of a young mountaineer considered to be the most gifted Aakacarn ever to be found in living memory.”

Cleona smiled, remembering when Fenton Chen, a Two-bolt Accomplished, delivered the message from the Grand Maestro. Relations with Aakadon were climbing to their highest back then and she wished that was still the case, but not enough to back down. Too much was at stake. “Little did they know it was not an Aakacarn discovered on Mount Tannakonna but an Aakasear,” she paused and thought about the young spell-caster. “The last I heard from Daniel he informed me of his plan to take the flute of Della Lain and the duplicate trumpet of Tarin Conn to Aakadon.”

A chuckle escaped even though Collin clearly made an effort to stifle it. “The entire world knows of his rather bold delivery of the ancient Aakacarn potential-enhancing instruments.”

Cleona wanted to smile at his mentioning of the event but had mixed emotions over the incident. “I just wish he did not also reveal his ability to compose Melodious spells while he was at it. His revelation has not made my tasks easier. My fellow monarchs know that a Royal Ducaunan Knight of the Realm is also the only Seven-bolt Accomplished in the world, and his abilities are similar to those of the Dark Maestro. I cannot fully blame them for being afraid of what I might command him to do.”

Collin nodded his head, clearly understanding her point of view. “Having his loyalty makes you the most powerful sovereign in the world. And it is precisely because of the Dark Maestro that Sir Daniel has assigned Scarlet Meado, a Three-bolt Accomplished, disguised as one of four of his Benhannon Guard, to protect you.”

Cleona smiled, remembering when those guards arrived and the Royal Guardsmen’s reaction. “The entire court was surprised when I made the announcement, especially after seeing a woman in a military uniform commanding three men.”

Collin stroked his whiskers. “I, for one, am pleased to have the protection of a master spell-caster and the three men armed with Aakacarn weapons created by Sir Daniel himself.”

The protection was necessary, otherwise she would never have agreed to accept the extra security, and yet even that decision had consequences. “I am also pleased even though their presence feeds into the doubts being raised by Tamkin and Sharmine. You and I are the only ones here who know Sergeant Meado is an Aakacarn and that the dagger and miniature crossbow she and each member of her squad have attached to their belts are more than what they seem to be. I suspect even the black copper-capped clubs allow them to do more than thump their opponents.”

“Tamkin might actually believe the accusation but I am sure Sharmine is more concerned about the loss of trade from the foreign sea ports,” Col replied with an assessment that was probably accurate. “That and knowing he must give additional port space free of charge to your ten frigates heading to that region to reinforce the twenty-seven already there.” The move placed her entire navy, consisting of thirty-seven frigates, purchased long ago from Serinia, in the Taltin Sea.

Cleona nodded in agreement. “He is trying to convince the other lords that the call to muster I issued is unwarranted and chiefly a result of Sir Daniel’s influence. It is the proof presented to me by the Knight that led me to my decision, not gratitude or some sort of mind control. The Realm Alert was Daniel’s legal call to make as a Royal Knight of the Realm, but he never even suggested the call to muster in preparation for war,” she had said this many times before but Col was a patient listener. “It has been months since I personally communicated with him and I have no idea what he is doing apart from following my commands to raise a muster, cleanse the realm of Serpent Guild activities, and deal with the many wandering Condemneds that have been plaguing our people.”

The comment caused Collin to smile. “My father is especially pleased with the vanquishing of the Serpent Nest within Mount Tirana. He and his elite guard have verified that Sir Daniel and his offensive force, I believe they are called, the Chosen’s Sentinels, have done a thorough job of cleaning out that rat warren. To think, I grew up in the region never knowing the danger posed to my ancestral lands.”

Lord Tirana had already expressed his gratitude to Cleona and through her to Sir Daniel. Collin knew this and most everything else happening in her life, including the duplicate Aakacarn trumpet. She had few secrets from him. There was one fact she never revealed to anyone, mostly out of a very real concern it would add to the worst fears about her, and give more fodder to those who worry over the influence of a certain knight. Ever since Daniel healed her, Cleona always had a general sense of where he was, currently somewhere to the southwest, could be at his estate about thirty-five spans from Ducanton, or as far as the southwestern end of the continent in the kingdom of Lobenia. She did not want to think of the political mess his presence at the latter location would create.

“Your father’s support has been a bulwark against the influence of Tamkin, Sharmine, and the few lords who back them. I will soon demonstrate to those who blame me for the loss of trade and who doubt my..,”

An invisible wave of energy washed through the world, from the north, judging by her limited senses, and cut off her words in mid-sentence. Unfortunately, these ripples caused by Tarin Conn’s attempts to escape his prison, as Daniel once explained them to be, were becoming all too common, and yet were so startling they could not be ignored no matter how hard one tried to do so.

“It seems the Dark Maestro is stirring again. It is good to know he is still safely locked away,” Collin spoke in a soft tone, though not even he could keep the alarm from reflecting in his eyes.

The effects of whatever spell the Dark Maestro employed in his attempts to break free usually lasted about as long as it took Cleona to count to thirty, sometimes seventy, and one time recently it had gone on for a full tenth of a mark. At the count of one hundred-seventeen she was beginning to think this attempt might go on to match that other time. She kept on counting, one-eighteen, one-nineteen, one-twenty, and the waves stopped as abruptly as they had begun.

Collin’s arms were wrapped around her and she appreciated the firm embrace. He breathed a sigh, released her, and lay back on his pillow. “Let’s hope he has the courtesy to grant us sleep for the rest of the night.”

“I would be surprised if being courteous to others even enters his mind,” Cleona replied.

They were on the verge of convincing each other that there was nothing to worry about and the actions of Tarin Conn should not be allowed to rob them of sleep, when another more powerful wave washed over them. This new occurrence seemed to be coming from the southwest, the same direction she knew Sir Daniel to be.

“As always, you are correct, my dear, the Dark Maestro does not know courtesy,” Collin said while once again taking her hand.

Cleona felt the need to share a fact that was causing a deep concern to develop within her, far greater than those she contemplated earlier. “This is coming from the southwest, not the north.”

Wave after wave continued to flow and Cleona gave up counting after a tenth of a mark had gone by with no sign of the emanations diminishing. Gongs were sounding all over the palace, as if anyone could still be asleep or fail to be alarmed, and the window panes were vibrating, probably all over the palace. The low and persistent hum seemed to be coming from everywhere. A quarter of a mark passed and still the effects of the spell-casting continued. Cracks spider-webbed through the picture window on the far side of the room and the glass shattered, sending shards falling onto the floor. Crystal figurines, cups, and vases containing flowers, cracked and fell apart, adding puddles of water to the mess.
Could this have something to do with Daniel?

“I can feel it in my teeth. What is your knight up to?” Collin asked, revealing how closely his thoughts were following hers.

Cleona could think of only one possibility. “Sir Daniel must be battling the Serpent Guild. Perhaps he found another one of their Nests in Ducaun and is attempting to eradicate it.”

The waves of invisible energy continued on and seemed to intensify until it was unlikely any window or anything made of crystal remained whole anywhere in the world. Just when it seemed the silent assault would go on forever, it cut off abruptly just shy of lasting a mark. A sense of panic, having nothing to do with the ripples of energy, caused Cleona to shiver. She could no longer feel the presence of Sir Daniel.
Is he dead
? The idea of having to fight a war against Tarin Conn, the Chosen Vessel of evil, without the Creator’s Chosen Vessel to lead the way, frightened her to the core, and the thought of losing a man she had come to think of as a younger brother brought tears to her eyes.

“Cleona, why are you weeping?” Collin’s voice reflected deep concern. He was the closest human being to her in life and yet even he rarely saw her shed tears.

BOOK: To Be Grand Maestro (Book 5)
7.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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