Legands of Ancrothy

Synopsis:

When Ferdinand and his friends escape from a medieval French dungeon they travel toward a Spanish castle, Spanyardous. But the French Prince Hugo is hot on their tail, vowing revenge. It is only then that the escapees, in the thick of battle, learn of the wonderful tale of Ancrothy and the Master Craftsmen…
Three amulets. Power. Glory. Life. An epic tale of adventure, survival and murder. This book is a thrilling and action packed, fast paced novel, well written by an emerging South Australian author.

Contents:

Chapter 1: The Escape

Chapter 2: Beauty Pageant

Chapter 3: On the Road

Chapter 4: Monsters of the Night

Chapter 5: The Siege on Birdeshire

Chapter 6: The Show Must Go On

Chapter 7: Castle Spanyardous

Chapter 8: The Road Back

Chapter 9: Ancrothy

Chapter 10: The Unassignment

Chapter 11: Saving the World

Chapter 12: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Chapter 1: The Escape

Ferdinand glanced across at the unconscious dungeon guards slumped against the wall. He’d knocked them out with his metal food bowl while pretending to lift it in a gesture of respect. “Fools” he muttered to himself. The fake screaming had worked: the king would surely think the torture had proceeded as normal.

At the banquet table the topic of discussion was now the prisoners below. Hugo spoke up in remorse for them but the King brushed his son’s remarks aside and abruptly changed the subject to the upcoming festival – La contest de Chevalier Chateau. His Majesty, The King wanted Hugo to find a princess or lady at the La contest de Chevalier Chateau but Hugo said he’d rather participate in the Swing of the Lances – a knights’ event – than go around impressing girls.

Prince Hugo was in many ways in disagreement with his father, King Otto. Early in Hugo’s life he had lost his mother Queen Marchet. Hugo and his mother had been very close to each other, therefore, Hugo and the King tolerated each other but with Queen Marchet gone Hugo had grown up impatient with his father. King Otto had been slightly eccentric since his wife’s death and he’d never quite gotten over it. Queen Marchet had died murdered and the King had every intention of revenging on the Spanish conquerors.

Meanwhile, in the dungeons Ferdinand had got together his henchman and formed a good plan except that it required outside help. But as Piedro had pointed out this help could be accidental. The whispering continued and the plan was to be executed on the before the Opening Day of La contest de Chevalier’s Chateau so that they could be gone by Opening Day which would be a busy day because knights and royalty from all over the continent would visit the host castle: La Chevalier’s Chateau. It was called Chevalier’s Chateau because it boasted the finest knights in the world. Ferdinand called it Confusion Day. So that was going to be that … but fate had decided the future to what it was inevitably going to be.

The next day when Hugo woke up he had resolved to change his father’s mind about the prisoners. The least he could do was reduce the prisoners’ beatings. So, Hugo spoke to his Father and surprisingly the King agreed. However, Hugo had no time to think about this because he was whisked away to meet other contestants and royals. First, he met Manuel, a Spanish contestant. He was from a different castle to Ferdinand of course, but nevertheless the Franks were enemies of the Spanish. Hugo put out his hand to Manuel but he did not take it. This was most disrespectful on Greeting Day and it usually meant a fight-to-the-death in a knight’s events. “Are you deciding to hyng morta de cavalier? ” This was the international way of saying “Will you fight to the death? This time Hugo saw Manuel’s dark eyes flicker. His eyes looked like impenetrable deep dark pools. But Hugo was sure saw the eyes flicker.

“Noi! Pardon! I was just thinking.”
“Hmm.” replied Hugo skeptically.

That night all Hugo vividly remembered of the day was Manuel’s eyes flicker and his somewhat strange reaction to Hugo’s question. The next day there was another day of greeting for the contestants a long way away. It was the day before the Opening Day and therefore the day for Ferdinand’s plan. But in the dungeons things were unchanged from the day before: the men muttered while Ferdinand refined his plan, Hugo was getting on his horse. It was the day of greeting to the Contestants from far away. It was the day of escape.

Hugo rode out to the festival ground. Pavilions of all shapes and sizes, colours and makes were set up around one pavilion, the Grand Pavilion. This was where the richest of all would come and also when the carnival was over the Best Knights or Best Knight would receive his reward. The area around the Grand Pavilion was packed with hopeful knights from all around. Hugo had hoped to find Manuel again but now he knew it was hopeless. He would have to wait till the following days when the actual fighting was on. At that moment the escape began.

Ferdinand was being careful that he and his eight companions couldn’t be seen. That was vital. If they were they would be killed on the spot. His plan was to act as squires to some unimportant knight. But as it was it didn’t look very hopeful that they would get that far. Their outside man was not there to break them out. About a minute later a faint creaking sound was heard from the inhabitants of the dungeon. If it wasn’t the outside man and it was a guard they would be flogged to death, but Ferdinand knew it wouldn’t be, he had read a small timetable the guard had. All the guards would be at the Swing of Lances or La contest de Chevalier Chateau. The only problem was that the only way to know if it was their death approaching or their freedom was to wait until the heavy trapdoor under Piedro’s bed moved. A rustling was heard below and a murmur went up but it was just a big fat rat. Ferdinand’s and his henchman were used to these, they had haunted the dungeons for the two months since he and his companions were caught. They were not rich like the men above them but they weren’t poor. They were actually assassins that rich and powerful Spanish and French hired to do their dirty work. But when the Spanish conquerors came and caused havoc in France their work rates dropped and they were reduced to stealing and finding the odd job on the shady side of the law. The last contract kill must have been very important because they were paid a lot of gold. This was a long time ago, well before they were caught.

The crowd was parting when the greetings were over. This suited Hugo, he didn’t like big crowds especially when there was battle to be done. Only small battles were going to be done that day, the major fight would be on the morrow. He had no intention on entering the amateur jousts that were being held on the other side of the field. He was off to the 6th largest pavilion, La’ Spaniards, he assumed that this would be the residents of Sir Manuel. What drove Hugo on at times like this was his curiosity. His mother had said when he was young that his curiosity would be his undoing. But at the time Hugo had brushed it away, only now he knew that it was probably true.

When Hugo entered the pavilion he smelt food. He hadn’t realized until then that he was hungry. A thought crossed his mind: maybe he could dine with Manuel. But when he asked the guards they just replied ‘Sir, Manuel is away at the moment. Would you like to leave your name in his appointment book?’

In fact, Manuel was on the narrow and grim stairwell to the dungeons. Unlike the rest of the castle, this part was not colorful or cared for. Grime had collected on the stone that spiraled down. His only thoughts were that by helping these prisoners he would win glory. He didn’t care what befell them afterwards; his orders were to save them and return them safely to the Castle Spanyardous in the hillsides of France. But those thoughts were driven out of his mind when the strong smell of decay hit him. He had a job to do so the faster he did it the better.

Hugo was annoyed with himself. Of course Manuel wouldn’t be there. He might be in the Grand Pavilion or at the mini games, or practicing his archery at the range. He could be away hunting. It was no use; Hugo would have to wait till Manuel returned tomorrow. In the distance he could hear the dining gong from the castle sounding. Ten minutes till Lunch. He rushed up the great stone stairs of the castle without a backward glance.

  • * *

Ferdinand was the last to leave the dungeon. He glanced back into the darkness. They had taken the lanterns to avoid slipping on the slimy ladder which went below the trapdoor. The trapdoor was to lead them out to the rubbish carts by the kitchens. The passage was built with the idea that food scraps could be sent to the very poor beyond the castle without anyone important having to witness people scavenging in rubbish mounds. But the practice was old and abandoned. But the tunnel remained for decades, even centuries. Cobwebs and rats infested the passage. If it weren’t for Piedro finding the trapdoor Ferdinand couldn’t see how it would work. Eight people creeping through the castle at lunch in dungeon clothes would not make it out.

Ahead Ferdinand could see a small speck of light gradually getting bigger. This meant that their way was not blocked. It also meant that the passage may have been known to others. Then, light stopped getting bigger. This didn’t worry Ferdinand, he didn’t want to climb through a gaping hole next to 150 chefs and spit boys. Manuel had reached the top and was sneaking looks out to see if the path was clear.

“See anything?” Piedro whispered.

“No. I think I’ve gone blind,” Manuel answered.

Of course, thought Ferdinand, all their would take time to adjust from the darkness of the dungeon to the bright light of day.

“The rubbish carts must have been moved. I can see the tracks,’’ Manuel whispered.

But it was plain to all escapees: luck was on their side.

Hugo was in his dining suite. The French royals had outfits for all occasions, dinner, lunch, carnival, even for bathing. Hugo was bored by all the restrictions on what he could or couldn’t do. He almost wished he went to the fields to work with the peasant children, not the stuck up courtiers’ children. He was smart for his age but also very bored. He only got to show his feelings at jousting competitions. He wondered what it would be like being king. All the expectations denatured him. What if he failed his country? He didn’t like people who abused power. The power to kill a living being, human or fish, worried him. This was one reason he disliked his father, the king. King Otto was better than most of the courtiers when it came to respecting life but he could still get angry and abuse his power. Hugo thought that true power was to be able to change a poor or dying mans life for the better.

Hugo’s chain of thought stopped abruptly when he bumped into a servant carrying a platter for lunch. It crashed to the floor.

“So sorry good sir! Please forgive me!” the servant pleaded.

Hugo dropped to the floor and began to help clear up. The shocked servant gaped at him. It was insane that a Prince should do servant’s work. When Hugo got to lunch he was 10 minutes late. But it seemed most people were late too. By the time the last arrived word had spread of what Hugo had done. The king looked at him disbelievingly and a paternal ‘Well-I-Hope-You-Did-The-Right-Thing’ look. Some courtiers would be disdainful if the heir to throne behaved like a servant. But Hugo just shrugged and ate his roast.

When Ferdinand was out of the passage way the group set off: Manuel with Ferdinand, Piedro with Fiendo, Granthax with Demendous, Anton with Nulls, and Hantrack with Kiddo. The plan was simple, it would be just after lunch and everyone would be coming (with their squires) to the first jousting competition or the La contest de Chevalier Chateau. Ferdinand hoped that if they could find a squire they could ask or if it came to it kill the person to take their place. Manuel and Ferdinand would act as French squires to Sir Evenol of Birdeshire. He was about as unimportant as you could get. And Birdeshire was not to far away. It was also on the road to the castle Spanyardous. They would have to wait the week of the carnival before setting off but this suited them. It would help them settle in with the knight and get to know him before continuing on their journey. What they didn’t need was any suspicion aroused. It would also be easier to go by cart than by foot up the hilliest landscape.

Before dark each group had taken their positions at each knight. Through forceful
persuasion or words. The plan was well and truly underway.

  • * *

Hugo was in a foul mood the next day. His father had refused to let him enter the jousting competition. They had had an argument in the morning. As always, King Otto won.

“I can’t let you joust against fully grown men. You’re only 17 years old!”

“Why not! I have the finest armor and the best weapons in all of France, and I’ve had tons of practice!”

“Accompany me to the La contest de Chevalier Chateau,” were the King’s final words.

When Hugo got to the La contest de Chevalier Chateau he saw the many colours and styles of dresses worn by the courtiers’ daughters. Even when angry, Hugo was still very handsome. He had long black hair underneath a cap embroidered gold and red. His green eyes shone with youthful determination. His body was athletic – lean and fit. His mother had known that even as a child he would be day have the pick of the ladies. And so did every girl when she turned and saw him.

Chapter 2: Beauty Pageant

At day’s end Hugo had won many hearts with his courtesy something, but had also learnt that some girls were sneaking and cunning. Watch Out!

Ferdinand and his men had successfully fitted in. They knew as much about their target knight as the squire before them. The knights did not care what had happened to their earlier squire as long as they retained a squire’s – or two’s – service.

As the week passed, the crowds watching the jousting competitions grew larger and the queues of those still waiting to joust shortened. On the last day of the carnival, the squires of departing and unsuccessful knights packed their armor and weapons Unfortunately for Ferdinand and his men, they would not be going soon as Sir Evanol was wanted at the Awards Festival. Astonishingly, he’d won a Best Knight Award.

Walking among the yew trees, Hugo was too deep in thought to notice the eyes watching him. The Swing of Lances and the La contest de Chevalier Chateau were over or ending and there wasn’t much excitement still sparkling within him. His main thoughts were on the prisoners below. He walked toward the castle; maybe he could get the keys and free them himself. Or maybe not. He decided he would try but didn’t observe eight men walking through the yews carrying heavy armor.

When Hugo had got the keys and was descending the dungeon stairs he thought of Manuel who he hadn’t seen since the first day of the Swing of Lances. Why had his eyes flickered at my question, Hugo asked himself again. Because he had a secret, Hugo asked himself. Then the strong smell of decay hit him. He reached the heavy door and opened it.

  • * *

Up above Ferdinand and company were watching a beauty pageant. Their knights were having lunch and they had no part in that. So instead they were ‘watching’ the beauty pageant through the sights on their bows. The bows were loaded and ready, and waiting until their users would let go of the bowstring and release the deadly arrows. When that happened two girls would have arrows in their lower legs and two guards would have arrows in their shoulders. Ferdinand’s plan was to confuse and panic. Nobody would be killed, only wounded. And Sir Evanol would be frightened away. At Ferdinand and Manuel’s signal havoc would begin.

Demendous’s brow shined with sweat, waiting for Ferdinand’s signal. When it came he would shoot his arrow and then run to the hideout to wait for the panic. The signal came and Demendous released his bow string, the second he arrow was out he snapped the bow and ran. He only glanced back when he was in the shelter of a big maple tree, hidden by its leaves. His arrow had found its mark, plunging at such speed and velocity into the calf muscle of a young dancer. He felt sorry for her, she wouldn’t dance again, but his remorse was short lived as he saw Manuel jump up a yew tree.

Hugo looked into the dungeon; it was dark and musty, with heavy air. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust. He heard a groan from one corner of the room. Where were the guards? He was shocked that they weren’t there but almost happy that the prisoners didn’t have two pairs of eyes spying on them from the door. Where were the lanterns? Was it always this dark? A torrent of questions rushed through Hugo’s mind but he could find no answers.

Above ground, panic prevailed. Who was the unseen archer? Was he going to strike again? People were flooding out of pavilions to see what the fuss was and then joining the panic. Those who didn’t have pavilions were rushing around screaming or running into the grand pavilion. It was only when the guards emerged that people calmed down. But by then Ferdinand’s company were well away with their knights on the road to their destination, Castle Spanyardous.

In the dungeons, Hugo was furious and scared, but not because of what was going on above. He had found two gagged and bound guards with bumps on their heads. The prisoners had escaped! Hugo forgot his sorrow for them as he burnt with anger. To escape from the dungeon! It was like laughing at everything that the French were! He quickly untied the guards and set of to catch the escapees.

Chapter 3: On the road

On the road away from the French royal castle and Carnival were many carts laden with pavilions. If it weren’t for the terror and anger in the people and their ugly swearing it would have been a picturesque scene, beautiful carts with colourful pavilions resting on top or in a storage compartment, horses in many beautiful colours, riders with handmade clothes and knights in their gleaming armor. But the mood was very different. In Sir Evanol’s cart there was such anger and terror it could have melted ice.

“I want my Best Knight Award!” yelled Evanol, suddenly deprived of his recognition.

“Do you think they will come after us?” shivered Manuel.

“If they do, I will tear them to pieces!” challenged the knight.

This was the sort of conversation to be heard in most retreating caravans and carts. When they were a few miles from the castle the anger and terror subsided and was replaced with frustration and silence. Ferdinand and Manuel took advantage of this and went about planning what to do next. The plan was to hijack a cart when they got to Birdeshire and travel on to the castle. But fate had other plans.

When the seven or eight carts and caravans stopped to rest, Ferdinand and Manuel explained their plan to their men. Ferdinand wanted to meet in Birdeshire but Hantrack and Kiddo were going to Fiedosvil, a small assortment of buildings about two miles east from Birdeshire.

“OK, then, everyone else meets in Birdeshire. We will steal some horses and ride to Fiedosvil where we will pick up Hantrack and Kiddo and go the next 85 miles to Spanyardous Castle. It should take about four days with breaks but no detours.

“When we get to Fiedosvil we will stop for a day and get supplies. Then continue. When we get to Castle Spanyardous we stay for a week then set off to the unknown lands beyond the mountains to find somewhere new to live and build a new empire.”

“That’s stupid! Make a new empire!” laughed Manuel.

“Of course, that’s why I said it! We need a laugh! No, we go there to get the biggest assignment yet, kill and burgle.’ replied Ferdinand.

‘The owner of the castle, Barbarosa will be awaiting us. We must leave at once if we are to stay alive.’ Demendous said.

After a day of travel Birdeshire was in sight. It was sunset and Sir Evanol hoped to be there for tea. Those who were going on would stop for the night and rest. This suited Ferdinand very much because that meant Hantrack and Kiddo would be able to join them and Ferdinand and co. wouldn’t have to detour to pick them up. They got to Birdeshire and set up for tea. Manuel went out to check on the others. He reported back to say that Hantrack and Kiddo had traveled on through the night because their knight hadn’t wanted to overnight in Birdeshire.

‘This is not good. They could be killed by animals or witches that haunt the area.’

Ferdinand and his henchmen spent the night worrying about Kiddo and Hantrack. When Ferdinand finally did get some sleep it was haunted with nightmares about Kiddo getting eaten by his master. Ferdinand woke with a start. It was still dark. He quietly pulled on his boots, woke Manuel and left the caravan. They would have to go on alone.

Chapter 4: Monsters of the night

Hugo stormed up the dungeon stairs. He would find and kill those prisoners if it was the last thing he did. He stormed to the stables and got his golden chestnut horse called Bella. It was only then that he heard about the Beauty Padgent.
‘It was the prisoners, or should I say, Dead Men Walking’ Hugo muttered.

He set of with a 9 men escort. If the prisoners were found they would be burnt to death or roasted alive as some villagers put it. He got the horse into a canter.
‘Sir, we don’t know where they are!’ one guard exclaimed.
‘You don’t, but I do.’ Hugo simply replied.
And that was it; they left on the road to Birdeshire.

Well into the night they traveled, until Birdeshire was in sight. 12 or 13 caravans and carts were parked there.
‘We’ll set alight to all of them! Roast them! And if we get it wrong and they aren’t there who cares!’ bellowed Hugo. He was in command now. Power rippled through him, anything in his way would be demolished. He didn’t care, adrenaline pumped through his veins. He picked up his bow, put oil on the arrows, lit them and fired at the caravans. The guards did the same. Soon the whole of Birdeshire was alight. The sun rose catching the smoke and holding it, making it orange for a moment then rose on leaving the path of devastation.

Ferdinand and Manuel heard the screams coming from Birdeshire. The sun hadn’t yet risen but it was 5:40 am. They were on horse back traveling up a well worn track towards Fiedosvil. They turned and saw smoke rising.

‘Should we go back?’ asked Manuel.

‘No, we must help Kiddo and Hantrack.’

They continued up the hills. They were getting steeper and the air was getting thinner.
It was only a matter of time until they found Kiddo’s van. They must surely have stopped to sleep somewhere soon. They traveled another mile. Then they saw some wood chips on the track. Ahead was a wagon wheel. They traveled on, a sense of morose clouding the brightness of the early morning sunshine. After ten more minutes they found the wreckage of a caravan. Bloodstains were splattered on the wall.
‘No… NO!’ Yelled Ferdinand, but his voice sounded thin in the fog of dread.
Ahead was a body, flesh torn from the face, unrecognizable. An arm had been torn off and was lying near some bushes to the side of the track. A path of blood from an injured body dragged of into the forest to the right. Ferdinand followed it.
Another body was ahead, amour still on it, neck severed. But still the blood path continued, winding through the trees. It stopped at the mouth of a cave. Ferdinand looked in. Inside was the unconscious body of Hantrack.

  • * *

Minutes before the fire attack on Birdeshire.
Dememdous was lying on his bed, he hadn’t got to sleep. He was playing with his dagger. He had made it himself when he was a black smith apprentice at the age of 15. Since then it had been used to kill many people. Dememdous didn’t mind killing. He always thought, if I don’t kill him someone else will, or someone will kill me. He was one of the best assassins in the world. The nine inch blade of his dagger wasn’t small but he knew how to use it. He could kill with one half the size. He was the youngest in his group at the age of 19 he was also the brightest, fastest, and most agile. He knew France of the back of his hand. If it weren’t for him, the plan wouldn’t have succeeded.
He heard a distant shout. He knew that sound. It was one of high authority. He jumped of his bed and raced to the door. It probably wasn’t anything but Dememdous liked to be sure. A flame raced through the dark night sky. Demendous dodged it. It hit a caravan and burst into flame. He yelled to warn people. Soon people were rushing and screaming. He must find Ferdinand and Manuel. He knew why this had happened. Someone had found out they had escaped and came after them. He searched for Ferdinand but couldn’t find him. He cried in frustration and ran to hide.

Chapter 5: The siege on Birdeshire

Hantrack had dragged himself to safety in the cave. That was what saved him. He didn’t know it at the time but he had cheated death twice.

Ferdinand shook Hantrack. He was still breathing but his breath was shallow and rasping. Ferdinand didn’t know if Hantrack would live. He got out his flask and poured some water on Hantrack’s face. He spluttered and his eyes flickered open.

‘Thank god…’ he rasped.

‘It’s OK. Don’t try to talk. It’s OK.’ Manuel reassured him.
But Ferdinand felt a surge of joy. Hantrack was alive! When he looked back he would know this as one of the happiest times in this adventure.

Hugo and his guards charged down the hill at the small town of Birdeshire. This was not revenge any more, this was a full out siege. Hugo burst though the smoke that shrouded Birdeshire. His glistening armor catching the light. He roared foam and spittle fly from his mouth.

‘Where are you prisoners?! If you don’t show your faces we’ll cut everyone down till nothings left!’

Dememdous watched as Hugo started hacking at the buildings, setting them alight if they weren’t already ash. Dememdous was tempted to go out and kill Hugo now, but he would be hacked to pieces before he was in range of the prince. It would be suicide. He got out a few throwing knives. He was excellent with them. He could hit a moving target from 35 meters away. He aimed and threw one. Just then one of the guards stepped forward as if to be a human shield. The knife found its mark perfectly, drilling into the guard’s neck. He was dead before he hit the ground. But it had given away Demendous’ position and soon guards were crowding around Demendous like a net. They still hadn’t seen him; he was stuck in a tree, out of sight. Hugo was in a rage. He pulled out a sword and plunged into the heart of a villager who was nearby. Demendous felt a surge of white hot rage boil in him. How DARE Hugo kill an innocent man! Demendous got another knife and threw it. It span twice in two perfect circles, cutting through the air. It sliced into Hugo’s hand that was holding the sword, severing two of his fingers. Hugo let out a scream, dropped his sword, his own blood dripping down it. He ran from the field, holding his hand, up the hill and out of sight. But the guards stayed and took prisoner of everyone they could find.

When they had all left, Demendous got down from the tree. That was the saddest moment of his life. He was alone. His friends dead or dying. Could he find it in himself to go on? Was revenge worth it? Was anything? These questions rushed through him. Torturing him. No he wasn’t alone. He could find Hantrack and Kiddo. He could go on. His friends died on the journey and if he wanted to die to with the knowledge that they died in vain so be it. But he must finish what they started. If he didn’t he was condemning everyone to death. He picked himself up and continued the journey with the knowledge that ‘I may be alone now. But not forever!

Chapter 6: The Show must go on

The path up the mountain was cold for Demendous. The way to the castle would be lonely. Without Piedro and Anton to share their jokes, sing their songs or tell their tales. Hugo would pay the price. He would tell Barbarossa. When he got there. About a mile up he came across the wreckage and bodies. He also came across a live and kicking Ferdinand and Manuel with an asleep Hantrack.
‘Hello! You don’t know how happy I am to see you!’ yelled Demendous.
‘Hi!’
‘Demend…’rasped Hantrack

The 4 exchanged tales of survival and sorrow. By the time they had finished it was lunch time and they ate some of the food Demendous had brought from his caravan.
After lunch they set of at a slow pace, trying to help Hantrack keep up. But it was slow work. By evening they had only traveled 3 miles.

‘4 miles down! Only 81 to go!’ said Ferdinand cheerfully.

Over the next few days the group progressed slowly. It was still 6 miles to the castle after 16 days traveling. Then they saw it in the fading light of the day. Beautiful stone masonry on the famous Monte Blanc Mountainside.
‘Come on! We can make it by tea!’ panted Manuel.
And they did. They got to the castle gates at around 6. It was only then that they saw the true extent of the castle. It was huge and beautiful. They had made it!

Chapter 7: The Castle Spanyardous

When they entered the great hall they were surrounded by luxury at its best. It had boar’s heads from exotic locations, deer heads, antelopes, beautifully made chairs, paintings, masonry. It was beautiful. Barbarossa was waiting for them in a purple and navy blue gown fit for a king.
‘Ah! My fine friends! So good that you could come! I hear you had some difficulties on your way. Where are the other four? It would be such a shame if they were able to make it,’

‘They were caught prisoner by the Hugo pig.’ Demendous answered.

‘2 were killed.’ Ferdinand put in

‘And I wounded…’ rasped Hantrack.
‘Well come this way we can have dinner then get to business.’
The group was led into a Dining Hall. It was just as amazing as the great hall.
They talked little over dinner, except to ask for pepper or salt. It wasn’t until afterwards that they talked.

‘I have an assignment for you. It would have been easier if we had all of you but we don’t so we’ll have to make do.’ explained Barbarossa.
‘I need you to kill Prince Hugo and King Otto. Then I will become King of France! And the Spanish can come and take the land they so dearly deserve. I will of course pay you more gold than your wildest dreams. I also need you to steal three amulets. The Power Amulet, the Glory Amulet and the Elixir Amulet. With these you have the power of the gods, the glory of the gods and the immortality of the gods. You become… a god.’
Ferdinand gasped it was too much! How could any man become a god!
‘When I have brought them together I will become! And you can have one amulet each,’ Barbarossa exclaimed confidently.
‘How much pay do we get?’ asked Demendous.
‘1000gold! Each! Because with the glory amulet you get infinite money!’

So that was that. Ferdinand, Manuel and Demendous had their assignment. Revenge and burglary, which would be how Ferdinand would later put it. Revenge and burglary.
The four spent a week at the Spanyardous Castle. By then Hantrack’s wounds had healed. Ferdinand was ready to leave and Manuel had himself a sword in the blacksmith. It was only Demendous who was not ready. Demendous wasn’t happy with the assignment. He disagreed with the Spanish Conquistadors coming and conquering. He was a Frenchman and proud of it. But this was going too far. For Barbarossa to become a god? Just one amulet would be enough for Demendous!
He wasn’t against killing Hugo but the King? No. No he must somehow sabotage the plan. Somehow. But when at last the day came to leave on their horses it didn’t seem to be a good idea to sabotage the plan. How was this any different to when he killed the queen?

Chapter 8: The road back

The group set off the way they came but on horseback not on foot. It was a lot faster and Hantrack wasn’t a burden, weighing them down. Instead he was a beacon of cheeriness. Demendous still hadn’t stated his feelings and had no intention to do so.
Ferdinand was his usual planning self. At this instance he was explaining what he’d do with amulets.
‘With the Power Amulet I’d make knew animals, make new stuff. I could make a castle instantly!’
For Manuel he was louder and happier than usual. His jokes were funny and his singing was rich with honey and the quite life of Spain. In the first two days all went well. The group traveled 30 miles. But on the third day things started to drift out of control.

After his retreat at the siege of Birdeshire Hugo rode home. It wasn’t all bad, his guards caught every last one of the inhabitants of Birdeshire. But when home, Hugo regained authority.
‘Get me the amulet of elixir and power!’ he bellowed at his father.
‘Guards! Seize him! Hugo have you forgotten your place?! Why the amulets are for the king only. Besides whom do you think you are? Sending one of my guards to his death?!’
‘The prisoners-!’
‘I… DON’T… CARE! Did you ever stop to think that that guard had a family?! And that that family had food on the table because of him?’ bellowed the king. The guards’ frog marched Hugo away.
‘I’ll get you back!’ yelled Hugo. Then he was gone, screaming to the dungeons.
‘What has he come to? Only weeks ago he wanted them free, now he’s set on killing them.’ the king muttered.

Ferdinand, Manuel, Hantrack and Demendous were only 20 miles from the castle when Hantrack called for rest.

‘Let us drink and refresh! This stream here will do!’

‘Why yes you’re quite right! How lucky we are to find such a thing!’ agreed Ferdinand.
So they settled down and drank. The water was clean and refreshing. Demendous started to feel tired.
‘We’ve gone so far! How tired I am!’ He said groggily.
‘Indeed! I wonder how Hugo is faring! Probably called up an army to search us out! They’ll look far and wide, in the mountains and on the fields! And we’ll be just here, waiting to come along and terminate them!’ cried Hantrack
But nobody heard. They were all asleep. It was only then that the bandits struck.

Hantrack had seen eyes at first, staring out of the bushes. But he had said nothing, thinking that it was just animals. When they were feeling groggy he tried to warn them through shouting. But now it was too late. Hantrack got his sword and plunged it at one of the bandits. But the bandit just side stepped.
‘Not to easily killed am I?’ the bandit laughed.
‘You can’t kill them, or whatever! You have to kill me first!’ Hantrack challenged the bandits. They were 5, he was one.
‘So why don’t you feel groggy? It was sleeping potion we put in the steam!’ asked the bandit.
‘I am not one easily tricked!’ yelled Hantrack as he jumped, leaving a ground clearance of a meter. He caught on to a tree branch.
‘So we have an acrobat!’ sneered another bandit.
‘Indeed,’ said another.
But as soon as those words left his mouth his neck was stuck with the force of iron by a tree branch. The bandit doubled over, unconscious before he hit the ground.
‘Anyone want to join him?’ challenged Hantrack to the astounded bandits.
‘Well don’t just stand there get him!’ yelled the bandit leader.
Four bandits jumped at Hantrack. Hantrack swung the branch in a 360 degree circle, hitting each in turn. Two more joined their comrade on the ground, writhing for breath.
But one successful jumped onto Hantrack’s back, clinging there like a sloth to a tree. Hantrack flipped, slamming the clinger to the ground. The leader pounced at Hantrack’s unprotected neck, tearing at it.
Blood tricked down Hantrack’s neck. Hantrack swung around, hoping to swing the leader off with the momentum. He did, but by then two more were on him, closing in with serrated daggers in their hands. Then one of them doubled over, a spear in his back. The other turned round, to see the attacker and was hit by the full force of a spear rod in the chest. He fell to the ground and lay still. Now that Hantrack was free of his immediate attackers he looked at what attacked them. He saw a dark green hooded figure plunging a spear head into the heart of the leader.
‘Good fight you were putting up there.’ said the stranger in a strange accent.
Hantrack didn’t answer. He didn’t know whether to trust the hooded stranger or fight him. The stranger lowered his hood, to show a scared but young face. He broke the silence.
‘I am Fardeep and you are Hantrack. I saw you coming and came to help. The Bandits would have kept attacking until you were exhausted then killed you. All credit though to you, a fine fight you put up indeed.’
‘How do you know my name? Where are you from? Why did you save me?’
‘I can answer all but one of your questions. That I must show you. I am a Crafter, descendant of the Sorcerer Khy, true heir. I am from the other side of the mountains, a place called Germany. Come with me.’
Fardeep drifted into the forests and Hantrack followed. After an hour of cutting through thick vines and branches Fardeep stopped. In front of them was a sparkling pool. It was the clearest blue.
‘The entry to the Ancrothy, land of the Craftsmen. Follow me and close your eyes.’
Hantrack did as he was told but wondered why he needed to “close your eyes”.
Fardeep took his hand. It was not sweaty like Hantrack’s but firm and confident. They walked forward blindly into the water, it rose, swirling and bubbling into its embrace. They walked deeper in. Soon it was at Hantrack’s chest, then neck, but something told him he wouldn’t drown. They walked further in until it covered his head. Then the water left and Hantrack’s feet were on firm ground. He opened his eyes, and saw fields of beautiful flowers and trees. Streams swirled and bubbled through the countryside. And in the trees houses were placed. This was Ancrothy, the world of Master Craftsmen.

Chapter 9: Ancrothy

‘So we have entered the world of Ancrothy. What are our first impressions?’ asked Fardeep.
‘Amazed. It is so beautiful here. Do the craftmen live in the houses placed in the trees?’
‘Some do. Others in castles in caverns under the ground. Some live in cities in lakes, some in normal villages.’ answered Fardeep.
‘Wow…’
Fardeep stepped forward and said something in a strange language. A white sheen surrounded him then disappeared. When it was gone. A man in different clothing but with the same face appeared.
‘Fardeep..?’
‘Yes stand in this circle and say: Ancrothy Vo’n Ganthendo A’ La Quoe.’
Hantrack stepped forward and said it. A burning and shimmering light surrounded him then disappeared. He looked at himself, instead of the clothes he was wearing when he entered he now had a colorful cloak and hood on.
‘How..?’
‘Craftsmen’s magic. Every thing Craftsmen make has some magic in it. Just like the clothes you’re wearing now. It is ancient magic. Ancrothy Vo’n Ganthendo A’ La Quoe allows you to live on the magical air you are breathing now. Ancrothy is protected with a different air. Everyone who enters from the Otherlands without saying the password is put to sleep and returned to the other lands. And the clothes are there to let the Craftsmen know that you mean no harm and are a visitor under guidance.’
‘I thought you said you were from Germany.’
‘Yes every Craftsman has a place in the Otherlands as well. Mine was in Germany.’
They traveled on through the fields. It was beautiful. The flowers weren’t natural but made by Craftsmen, using ancient magic. Hantrack came to understand that all of Ancrothy were huge caverns and when the Ancrothians or Craftsmen came it was all black. They had made it all, the sky the trees, the ponds, everything.

‘You are here because of your assignment. You must not do it. If Barbarossa gets the three amulets he will destroy half the earth. Sorry you wouldn’t understand. I must start from the beginning. Ok here goes. The Master Craftsmen were the best on earth. They made the French royal castle, the hills, and the world. Everyone who knew of them thought they were god’s gift to the world. Especially the women. They had magical powers. They were like gods that roamed the world, righting wrongs, helping those in need. They were like this until one King came along. He despised them, and ordered them to be exiled. But this was in ancient times. He declared them witches and when they were exiled from France they traveled far and wide. But nobody wanted them.

‘So they built this,’ Fardeep gestured to the surrounds, ‘but the real reason the King exiled them is because he was afraid. Afraid that in all their power they might over rule earth, take it for themselves. But when they build Ancrothy he realized he was wrong. The world needed the Master Craftsmen. For a while the legend went on. But some people didn’t want the world to be perfect. And so it was forgotten. Then wars broke out. Only the royal family of France knew how to stop them. The French tried to bring them back, but the Ancrothians refused. But not completely. They made 3 amulets, the First of Power, the Second of Glory, and the Third of Life later to be known as elixir. They gave these amulets to the royal family. For awhile the family used them with kindness of heart. They had to be used with good reason at heart otherwise they would bring great evil. Keeping the world at peace. But then they were stolen from the family. With the Second amulet the family who stole it came to power. With the Third they made people to do there bidding and with the First they sealed of the world of Ancrothy. The old royal family became the lowest of the poor. King Otto the current king is of direct decadency to one of the old royal family. So he has kept France at peace. But Prince Hugo is of direct decadency of the man who stole it. Every since he was born he has been weakening the magic of Goodness that the Ancrothians put on the world all that time ago. Spain has taken advantage of this. Others will soon do the same. When Otto dies and Hugo takes the throne the world will be thrown into turmoil. You must kill Hugo. You must save Otto and the amulets. The prophecy told of a time when someone would save the world from the evil magic enclosing on it. But you must not let anyone else know of this world, only the ones you would trust with your life.’

‘I understand.’ said Hantrack.

‘Then you must go, before your friends wake up. I will help you, so will all Craftsmen. Goodbye and good luck.’

Chapter 10: The unassignment

Only one day had passed since Hantrack had got back from Ancrothy. He had told Demendous, Ferdinand and Manuel of his ventures through Ancrothy. They had been astounded but believed him. They had entered the town surrounding the castle. Nobody noticed, it was normal for people to come this way, to the castle.

In the dungeons Piedro and the rest sat gloomily watching and waiting. Were Ferdinand and Manuel, Hantrack, Demendous and Kiddo all dead? That as half their group! Nothing much had happened since being thrown down here other than Hugo joining them. They would be burned to the stake the next day. They couldn’t try to escape again, guards had been positioned everywhere. The King obviously wasn’t taking chances. Piedro wondered what the assignment would be. He would never know. It would be all over tomorrow. Piedro thought of all the things he hadn’t done in his life. He was 20 years old. He had wanted to marry once and have children but those days were of old. It seemed so long since he had poked his head out of the escape chute. He wandered if his friends would come back for him. Probably not. There was little talk in the prison. Only Hugo talked. He yelled all night to be released. He would be executed the next day. Time passed slowly. No natural light was in the prison. It was musty, dark, and cold. The nights were hard to get through, riddled with nightmares. Times were bad inside the prison, and they didn’t look like they’d get much better any time soon.

Above in the castle the king was lying in a tub. He was deep in thought so he didn’t notice the door to the royal bathrooms open and two people sneak in. Manuel and Ferdinand snuck in. They had to tell the king what they knew. And fast. Manuel crept forward and Ferdinand stayed behind. The king turned in his tub toward the door and witnessed Manuel in a well made suit knock on the door.
‘Come in,’ answered the king. The tub was overflowing with bubbles.
‘Ah, your majesty,’ Manuel knelt before Otto ‘I have grave news for you.’
‘Continue,’
‘Well the amulets that you keep are in great danger.’
‘What do you know of them?’
‘The first stone, made by the Master Craftsmen is of Power, the second is of Glory, the third is of Life.’
The king gasped. How did this man know so much? It was supposed to be known only by the Family.
‘The grave news is, other than that they will be stolen, is that your son will be murdered 4 hours from now on his way to the to the dining hall.’
‘How..?’
‘Do you disbelieve me?’
‘I don’t even know your name.’
‘I am King Vos Diesk from the great land Germany!’ snapped Manuel with a crisp tone of superiority.
‘Why do you take interest in these matters?’ enquired King Otto.
‘Everyone takes interest in the safety of the amulets made by the Craftsmen from Ancrothy. Why, you especially should! For you are the true descendant of the fair King Aramis! You should be proud!’
‘Where are the amulets?’ asked the King.
‘Here.’ Ferdinand walked in, looking immaculate in a gold and green evening gown.
In his hands were 3 gems in a gold frame. The Power amulet, a huge diamond. The Glory amulet a blood colored ruby, and the Life amulet the legendary Infinity Emerald.
‘You got these how? Asked the king in a shaky voice.
‘I did.’ answered Demendous from the shadows. He was dressed in midnight blue with fine silver trimming. Half his face was covered with the mask of a puma. His right arm was covered by glittering ice blue armor plating and in his hand was his glittering dagger, the deepest red blood dripping from it, splattering on the floor.
‘Who..?’ asked the king.
‘The… Killer Craftsmen!’ announced Hantrack flipping into the room. He looked bright and cheery in contrast to the others. He was in a lime green acrobatic costume with straps running down his legs, holding small throwing knives.
‘You are Master Craftsmen?’ asked the king, shocked.
‘At your service,’ chanted the four in time.
‘Make this tile gold!’ ordered the king pointing at a tile.
The tile shimmered then turned a glinting gold.

Chapter 11: Saving the World

In the dungeons Piedro was fuming. Hugo had been released to “go to lunch”. The only comfort in the dungeon to see Hugo in rage or yelling to be released. Things were dim. Piedro fell into an uneasy sleep. He was running through a corridor. But he was the chaser. Ahead was Hugo, screaming. In Piedro’s hand was a sword. Fury ran through his veins. Hugo screamed and Piedro woke startled. He was in the dungeons writhing on a stack of hay. Anton had his hand on Piedro’s brow. It felt hot. Sweat tricked like rain down his face. Ganthrax was shouting for help, guards were running toward him. Everything went black, Piedro had fainted.

Above Hugo was storming toward the dining hall. Fury was pumping through him, like blood. He got to the dining hall. The king was sitting calmly eating the roast with immaculate manners. It was too much, Hugo cracked.
‘HOW… CAN… YOU… BE… SO… CALM!’ bellowed Hugo.
‘Do you want to see? I calm my blood pressure-’
‘SHUT UP!’
‘I think we need to talk.’ said the king calmly.
So they talked. Hugo was getting calmer. By the end of lunch Hugo was calm just like his father.

The Killer Crafters were playing around in the armory. Demendous was praticing darts, each dart plunging into the bulseye or into the back of the one before. Manuel was slashing a sword into some armor. Ferdinand was making steel claws and slashing them at Hantrack who was spinning a lance around with precision. The afternoon was drifting by. Hantrack was practicing pole vaulting. At 5 pm. they left with the best of swords and bows. Some they had got from the armory, some from the power amulet. It would all be over soon. With Hugo dead they would have no obstruction to get at the King. They would teach him how to harness the power of the Life Amulet.

They took their places at the entrances to the corridors. Hantrack was stuck in the roof ready to drop down on unsuspecting guards that finished their shifts. Ferdinand was positioned at the entry to dispatch any servant entering the hall. Manuel was placed at the kitchens to knock out any cook going to the hall. And lastly Demendous was placed behind a suit of armor in a corridor to see that Hugo was successful on his trip to the hall. The plan was, once Hugo was in the hall the King would kill him by the use of the Power amulet. Once without obstruction they could teach the king the way of the amulets. That was of course if it went to plan…

In the dungeons two guards were pulling Piedro from the stack of hay. He had fainted and was in need of help. Fiendo his partner managed wrangle his way to the guards and went with them. That left only Ganthax and Nulls. Hugo was dragged back, kicking and yelling into the dungeons. It was only 5.20pm. Nullous had assumed that he would go to the Dining Hall for dinner. But when he didn’t go at 5.30pm things didn’t change.

It was 5.35pm Hugo hadn’t came past any of the Killer crafter’s Positions. Ferdinand was beginning to worry. What if he didn’t come? Then their work would be for nothing. Should he tell the others to call it of? Or should he search for Hugo himself and kill him? No. That would be stupid. Hugo could just be late. It would still work. But after ten more minutes all of the Killer Crafters knew it wouldn’t. Manuel had planned for this, making a central meeting place in the castle. If Hugo didn’t arrive in the next five minutes they would meet at that place and find him. After two more minutes Demendous was about to go to the place of meeting. But two guards were coming, dragging a dungeon man with them. The face was familiar. Though torn and scared as it was Demendous recognized the face, it was Piedro! Another man was behind him, their face shadowed by a hood. Demendous only thought to save Piedro. He got a throwing knife and threw it at the two guards. The blunt end hit them. They dropped to the ground unconscious. The hooded man was alert, ready, prepared to face the man who had so nearly killed Piedro. But Demendous knew that style; he left his shelter of the shadows and walked forward, meaningfully. Fiendo pulled out a dagger and threw it at Demendous’ heart. Demendous caught it millimeters before it would hit and laughed.
‘Trying to kill me are you? Why Fiendo I thought we were friends!’
‘So you did come back for us! Where are the others?’
‘Just about to find and kill Hugo. Though I have grave news…’
While Demendous strode to the meeting place he told Fiendo and Piedro what had happened since. Fiendo cried out when he heard what had happened to Kiddo. When the three got to the meeting place the other three were waiting. Ferdinand was hidden in suit of armor, Manuel hidden in the fireplace and Hantrack perched on the corner of the ceiling. Hantrack almost crashed to the floor when he saw Fiendo and Piedro.
‘Friends…’
‘It seems that we have an operation to do. Let’s say hello later. Job first.’ said Piedro.
‘Yes your right. Come on men! We’ve got a job to do!’ said Ferdinand. He set of towards the dungeons. ‘Get into pairs that we had before.’
‘Ganthrax…’ murmed Demendous. Then he was of with Hantrack. They trudged down the toward the dungeons. The small stair well was ahead. The rotting steps creaked as they descended. The musty and rotting smell wafted up to embrace them. Guards were at the heavy door. Fiendo and Piedro broke of, throwing two knives at the guards. They slumped to the floor.
‘You know we could have used the Power amulet to put him to sleep…’ muttered Hantrack. They slowly opened the door. Inside were the remainder of the group, there was also the inhabitants of Birdeshire. Ganthrax yelled in joy. Nullous jumped.
‘Hello friends! Now where may we find Hugo?’ asked Manuel and Ferdinand.
Then Hantrack saw him, slumped against the wall, sleeping. Hantrack ran forward, and two firm hands caught his shoulders. But Hantrack was fast to react, he, using the support of the guards jumped slamming the heels of his acrobatics shoes into the guards stomachs. They slumped. But two more were already charging at Hantrack. Ferdinand, who had the power amulet, froze them before they could get to Hantrack. Ganthfax gasped when he saw the massive diamond.
‘Now we must get Hugo to the King. Only then will the land be rid of him.’ said Hantrack. Demendous saw Nullous rise an eyebrow at this but got up and followed them out, frog marching Hugo with them.

They entered the dining hall. The King was there eating. Nobody else sat at the great polished table. The group shunted Hugo into the seat on the other end of the table.
‘Explain!’ Snapped the king. But it wasn’t aimed at the group, it was aimed at Hugo.
Hugo looked at the king, and then at his chest. Blood was blossoming from it. He slumped forward. In his back was a single golden arrow. Hugo was dead.

Chapter 12: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

The funeral procession was slow. The King was there, so was the Priest and a group of ten. Ferdinand, Manuel, Demendous, Hantrack, Fiendo, Piedro, Ganthax, Nullous, and Anton. The last person was Fardeep in a deep green traveler’s cloak. It was the day after. All executions were stopped because of the funeral. Nobody else would die today. But still the prescience of death lurked around every corner you turned.

‘-Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust, earth to earth. We commemorate the premature death of Prince Hugo.’ The grieved voice of the Priest droned on. Ferdinand was on and off. Not listening but still hearing parts. He longed to be away, but Manuel said it was only fair that they stay for the funeral. Ferdinand looked up; he saw hills, rolling, streams gurgling, flowers following the sun. The spring day was beautiful, not a day to dress in dark clothes and mourn. Ferdinand heard people move away, the service was over. It was only 8 am. They still had the day to travel away from the horrible enclosed spaces of the castle, toward the fields, and country towns. Maybe they would one day go to Germany with Fardeep and see more of the world. Ferdinand realized he was the only one left near the grave. He turned and walked away. There was a time for mourning, but it wasn’t today.

Epilogue:

After the death of Hugo and the goodness returning to the world, the Master Craftsmen Council voted to come back to the world due to missing it so much. In that time the world became a much better place.

Anton married a young girl, so did Piedro and stopped working as assassins.

Nulls stopped working as an assassin and decided to explore more of the world with his brother Fiendo.

Ganthrax also married and stopped working as an assassin and became a blacksmith.

Hantrack joined a circus and Demendous worked with the Master Craftsmen.

Manuel, having completed his mission went of to Spain and retained his title, Prince.

And Ferdinand married had twins and started working as travelling merchant.

Fardeep continued his work with the Master Craftsmen and got into the Council for his efforts.

All of Ferdinand’s men created a guild to try and keep the Master Craftsmen in the Mortal Realms.

King Otto’s long reign continued but as he had no heir he asked Ferdinand, who politely refused. The King then asked the Master Craftsmen to, but they said they couldn’t. King Otto then married again and had a child, who grew fast. Otto named him Manuel Junior, sealing the alliance between France and Spain.

Sir Evanol got his best knight award after complaining directly to the King. He also hired another squire.

Legands of Ancrothy

Tsquires

Joined December 2007

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Yeah, long. Long. Long. Good though. And by the way I’ve copyrighted it so if you steal it I sue. Dont risk it. I SAID DON"T STEAL IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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