Castle Roland


by David McLeod


Chapter 11

Posted: 29 Dec 2014


by David McLeod

The Battle for Arcadia

"Who can we count on for support, and who will be our greatest opposition?" Lawsonius asked, and then turned the question into a statement. "We need to know who will support us and who will oppose us."

"The warlords, their armies; they will be our opposition," Morgan suggested.

"More broadly than that," Lawsonius said, "the opposition will include all those who have prospered under a warlord. His closest associates, the leaders of his armies. Even guildsmen and tradesmen who have prospered. They have the most to lose."

Jon, James, Severus, and the Dwarven king listened closely to what the youngsters said. Not infrequently, the more experienced group exchanged glances when one of the boys made an important point, or reached a critical decision.

"Who will be our support, then?" Prince Richard asked.

"The hidden clerics," Gentian began.

"The Dwarven armies," Belisarius added.

"And those subjugated by the warlords," Tyler concluded.

"Exactly," Lawsonius said. "But those subjugated will not provide strong support. It will be tentative and reluctant."

"Huh?" Morgan asked.

"Yes, they are subjugated. Yes, we would fight against that," Lawsonius said. "But, they have lived this way for a thousand years. Life isn't great, but it isn't too miserable, either. They've been ruled–how did you say it, Morgan? Warlords have come and gone so quickly people don't even bother to learn their names? They will not fight for us until they know–firmly know–that we aren't just another unnamed warlord."

"But we bring the Light to them!" Gentian protested.

"They've been so long in the Darkness, that many will not welcome the Light," Morgan said.

"They can be won to the Light!" Gentian countered.

"They may easily be won," Lawsonius said, "but it may be harder to fix them in that persuasion."

"We must have a plan to deal with prisoners of war," Lawsonius added. "Is it enough that a Sembler sees that a person's parole is genuine?"

"Better than that," Gentian said. "An oath of parole can be enforced by magic. It can be burned into their brain."

"Is that a Good thing?" Tyler asked.

"It is not Evil, and it is how we take our oaths," Gentian said. "If the person is willing, and knows that will happen…Of course, even that isn't inviolate."

"And those who won't give their parole?" Morgan asked.

"Imprison them in a place where they must grow their own food or starve," Lawsonius suggested.

"Guards for such a prison would deplete the army," Tyler suggested.

"Manacles," Gentian said. "They could use a hoe or a plow, but they would not be able to use magic if they were manacled. Fewer guards would be needed."

"We can make manacles." Belisarius grinned.

"We will need food both for the Army and for refugees," Lawsonius said, again recalling Jon's stories of the Third Gulf War on his home world. "Be assured that the enemy will drive refugees to us, knowing that we will not allow them to starve. Be assured that a retreating enemy will burn fields and slaughter livestock rather than let them fall into our hands."

As always, the planning lasted long into the night.

The city of Albion had been taken with little bloodshed. Dwarves and clerics infiltrated the open city at First Market. By the last day of market, they had seized the duke and his coterie. A new duke had been installed. He was a cleric, but only a few people knew that. No Elves, and only a few Dwarves, had taken part in the battle and then backed up the army of disguised clerics at the investiture. One by one, in secret. Guildmasters, Centurions, and Burghers were examined by Semblers. Those who agreed to serve the Light were sworn to secrecy, and invited to join the Duke's Privy Council. "One day," the duke told each of them, "this Council will become a City Council, and will select its own leader, who will become the City Master under mutual and honorable vows of loyalty and fealty. Until that day, we will maintain the fiction of a despotic autocracy."

"What shall we do with this one?" the soldier asked. He thrust a ragged boy forward. "He was caught trying to steal from the warehouse."

"What were you trying to steal?" James asked.

"Bread, my lord," the boy said.

"Not entirely true," James mused.

The boy gasped. "You're a Sembler? And not afraid to show it." He paused. "That means you're going to kill me." The boy, who had been hunched over like a supplicant, straightened and stood tall. "Then kill me, and get it over with. I am not ashamed of my life, and I do not fear death.

"I should like to have had supper, first, though" he said with a tight smile.

James chuckled. Jon and the others in the duke's throne room looked at the man as if he'd gone crazy.

James chuckled again, and then laughed. "You'd like to have had supper!" he gasped. "Boy, I salute your courage. You're a Thief, are you not?"

The slight smile faded from the boy's face.

"You don't have to answer. You are right, I am a Sembler, and I saw the answer. You have not broken your vows, but I know that you are a Thief. Come here, boy."

The boy, a little more wary than before, stepped forward until he was within an arms length of James.

"What is your name," James began, "or, rather, what may we call you?"

"Scott, if it please you," the boy said.

"Scott, it pleases me very much," James said. "I've not yet seen any boys in this town with your spunk. It encourages me–it literally gives me courage and hope that we may yet succeed."

Scott was clearly puzzled. "You have taken this town by force, and installed a new duke. He will rule by subjugating us, just like the last duke, and the one before that." Scott looked at the man seated on the Ducal throne. If looks could kill, Jon thought.

"Did the last duke recognize the Thieves Guild?" James asked.

Scott nearly sneered before he remembered his situation. "No, of course not. He hanged every Thief he could find, and many who were not."

"Do you still have a Guildmaster? Is he recognized by the members? Do you know who he is? I do not ask you to tell me his name, but only if he exists," James said, pausing briefly between each question to read the boy.

"You may know my yes or no," Scott said defiantly. "But you may not discern his name."

James held a whispered consultation with the duke, who nodded.

James then spoke, "Scott, go to your Guildmaster and give him this message. 'On my life and on the life of my son, whom I send to you, you may safely come here and safely depart at a time of your choosing.' "

James looked at Lawsonius. "Lawsonius, go where this boy takes you. Sojourn where he or his master directs. Come home safely when they allow. Do you understand? Will you obey?"

"Yes, father," the boy said. The boy kissed his father, and then Jon. Lawsonius went to the ragged thief. "Well, come on," he said, taking the hand of the stunned Boy-Thief and leading him from the room. "Would you like supper, first?" he added.

"Lawsonius is your son?" Jon demanded of James. The Ducal audience was over; the two were in private.

"It is a secret we've kept for many of years," James answered. "He wanted so much to be accepted by the other boys in the monastery. He lived with his mother until she was killed; then he was brought to the monastery. If he were known to be the son of a Senior, it would have been harder. We've kept the secret for so long. If I've offended you by not telling you . . ."

Jon interrupted. "Offended? Offended! Could you have in any way shown greater trust than to allow him to become my companion and student? Offended? I will never understand you people."

Early the next morning, the guards at the gates of the Ducal palace were startled by the appearance of Lawsonius and a boy. The two were escorting a veiled woman. "Come on," Lawsonius said, "Let my friend and me in. And his mother, too."

To say that James was relieved by the appearance of his son would have been an understatement. The Duke's Council hurriedly assembled.

"My lords," the woman said after removing her veil, "you had my son's life in your hands, but you opened them and let him live. You gave me your son's life, and I return it to you. My name is Barbara, and I am Mistress of the Thieves Guild of this city. Something has happened, or is about to happen. I believe it is in the best interest of my followers that we be a part of it. Am I correct?"

The discussion which followed took most of the morning, but agreement was reached. "We of the Thieves Guild are neither of the Light nor the Dark; we do not serve that which you call Balance, because we see it as stagnation. We serve, I suppose we serve enough Light that people can live in hope and enough chaos that those with great talent can find a place to excel. We do not serve the Dark, although we believe that a little Darkness is needed to create chaos.

"I do not know if this is understandable to you. I barely understand it, and obviously not well enough to explain it, and I've been living it for nearly 300 years."

"Guildmistress," James said, "I have been living my credo for over 500 years. It is, or it seems to be, considerably less complex than yours, and yet I do not fully understand it." He smiled. "Let us agree on this: You will help us restore the Light to Arcadia if only to rid it of the stifling Darkness which you eschew. When the Light is restored to Arcadia, we will endeavor to ensure that your guild is recognized. You understand that I cannot promise anything but our best efforts?"

"I understand," Barbara said. "And my peers will understand. I will contact them with your offer. We will, I believe, become the espionage corps and the–what did you call it? The fifth column you seek."

Lawsonius and Scott embraced. Lawsonius felt Scott's heartbeat slow from the rapid pace of his exertions. "I am sorry that we may not remain friends," Lawsonius said, "but I understand. You live in the shadows between that which is and that which will be. You must not be known to be a companion to an Acolyte of the Light."

"Lawsonius," Scott gasped, "I love you, but I know it is not a love that will be allowed in this life. Will you look for me in another?"

Lawsonius kissed the tears from Scott's cheeks, and nodded. "I will, Scott; I most surely will."

When the boys parted at the gates of the palace, Scott winked. "You know, don't you, that after you win, I'll be in the shadows, watching?"

Two Senior healers and their acolytes donned plain woolen robes and came to Albion. With their arrival, a city which for a thousand years had known no healing better than heuristic and folk medicine found the benefits of healers who truly knew their craft. Slowly, cautiously, more of the monks came to the town, and began instilling tenets of the Light in their patients, and recruiting promising boys to attend a school where they learned to read and write, and do sums.

Citizens found that the new duke, like the old one, pressed them into service, but now, it was not to benefit the duke, but the city. The aqueduct from the mountains was repaired, and no longer did water have to be hauled from the river. The sewers were flushed, and the people woke one morning to find they could again smell bread baking. It took nearly a decade, but the tipping point was reached.

A few people remarked on the number of Dwarves who came to First Market. A few people remarked on the number of men and boys who arrived wearing plain, woolen robes and carrying heavy walking sticks, and who joined the usual market day crowd. No one remarked on the absence of certain members of the City Guard. Those few who would not swear to the Light had been quietly arrested the night before.

The square, and the streets leading to it, were crowded. At noon, several figures in plain robes mounted the high platform of the scaffold, set in the middle of the square. They glanced at one of their number. It was James; he nodded.

A boy raised a trumpet to his lips and blew a fanfare. The other figures on the platform doffed their plain robes to reveal robes, jerkins, and tabards emblazoned with heraldic designs not seen in centuries.

The monk who had taken the role of duke–his voice amplified by magic–spoke. "You know me. For nine years I have been your duke. You know these men"–he gestured to the members of the Privy Council–"They are your neighbors and brothers. They are also your Guildmasters. You know these men"–he gestured to two healers and their acolytes, wearing robes that bore the Lucerna–"They have healed you and taught you and your children. You know this boy"–he gestured to the Dwarven prince, resplendent in polished and bejeweled armor. "He is the Prince of the Dwarven kingdom under the mountains to our south, and was present at my coronation. Know now his father, the king."

The duke bowed, a gesture that was echoed by the others on the platform, by the Dwarves in the square, and by many of the Humans.

"Today," the duke announced, I declare Albion in alliance with the Dwarven kingdom, to be a City of the Light."

He paused until the babble in the square died down. "Also, with the advice and consent of the Guild Council, I declare Albion to be in fief to the true Prince of Arcadia, when he is found and crowned.

"With the advice and consent of the Guild Council, I declare Albion to be allied with the Dwarven kingdom in a battle to restore the Light to Arcadia.

"Finally, I abdicate the title of Duke of Albion, and return rule of this city to its Guild Council."

The Dwarven king's voice filled the stunned silence. "Today, I declare my kingdom and my people to be in alliance with Albion, a City of the Light.

"I also declare myself and my kingdom to be allies of the true Prince of Arcadia, when he is found and crowned.

"I also declare myself and my kingdom to be allied with the City and peoples of Albion in a battle to restore the Light to Arcadia.

"Finally, I declare my support for the Guild Council of Albion in this great undertaking."

The Guildmaster Potter spoke. "My compères on the Guild Council have asked me to accept the position of City Master. I have agreed to take that position to be the servant of the Council and the people of this city for no more than one decade.

"On behalf of the City of Albion and its people, I affirm this to be a City of the Light. I affirm that we are all in fief to the future, rightful Prince of Arcadia through bonds of mutual trust, respect, loyalty, and protection. I affirm our alliance with the Dwarven kingdom, and our place together in the vaward of the battle to restore the Light to Arcadia.

"Finally, I thank Brother Smithson"–he gestured to the former duke–"and his compères, all Clerics of the Light, for their service to this city.

It had been difficult; the risks were great. The effort to bring Light into the Darkness had taken its toll. More than a few of the Monks had lost their lives when their message reached the wrong ears. But the strategy had paid off. On that same First Market day, the same scene with appropriate variations was played out in Amber and Forest Green. The Light had its stronghold in Arcadia. It had a base of power and a breadbasket of food. The forges of four Dwarven kingdoms were its armory, and the clerics and acolytes of two monasteries were its cadre. Now, the real battle could begin.

"I don't understand," Tyler asked Lawsonius. "Why couldn't we just continue to rule the three cities as we were, and do the same thing in other places? Why did we have to announce our victory and our intentions? There must have been people in the square who will make sure the information gets to the despots in other cities."

Lawsonius stopped rubbing Tyler's back. "It's not an easy question to answer," he said. "In part, it was because our hold on those three cities–as despots–was tenuous. In part, it was because we–Jon, my father, Severus, the Dwarven king, others–truly believe people are, or can be, Good, and can rule themselves, and should rule themselves.

"In part, it's because the Light needed a public rallying point. Now, people who have lived in fear of the Darkness can join with others with their beliefs. In part, it's because we don't have the resources to hold these cities and infiltrate others. In part, it's because we know, deep in our hearts and minds, that Darkness cannot be defeated without a war. I don't know why that is, but that's the way it seems to be."

Jon, on the next bed, cuddled with Morgan, heard and nodded. The next morning he related what Lawsonius had said to the boy's father. "He's a very bright boy," Jon said.

"You've taught him a great deal," James said.

"In the Boer war–in the late 1800s," Jon added for Tyler's benefit, "wooden models of weapons were used to decoy enemies away from certain positions and into others. They were named for the Quakers–a group resembling the Valerians," he said for the benefit of the others, "who did not believe in violence.

"It may only work once, but it should work. I'm suggesting armor of bronzed paper, shields of painted birch bark, and a whole lot of Senior Centaurium's wooden swords."

James nodded. "On the hills?"

"Rather on the ridgelines," Lawsonius said. "They would be silhouetted against the bright sky, making it harder to discern the deception. And," he hesitated. "The risk would be great, but if all were boys, their height would appear about the same."

James nodded again. "The risk is acceptable, and the boys are steadfast."

The Dwarven armorers worked carefully on the paint for the fake weapons. "The plumbum is deadly if ingested or inhaled," one explained to James. "However, it makes an excellent paint. You don't want it too shiny. Armor and shields with a dull and well-used patina would suggest seasoned, battle-hardened troops."

James agreed, and watched while boy after boy was outfitted with a dull, silver shield of birch bark on a willow frame, and a sword of pine and paint.

_All armed prophets have conquered,_
and the unarmed ones have been destroyed.
–Machiavelli, The Prince

The war was not easy, nor was it without cost. Yet, Light prevailed, and the Darkness slowly retreated, some to Elvenhold, some westward over the mountains, but most to Eblis.

As a city or village capitulated or was captured, a message was sent to the nearest of the hidden monasteries. Clerics, skilled in healing and husbandry arrived and began the rebuilding. Some few found structures that had been Temples, and occupied those. More worked from public houses, gristmills, and smithies, the places where people congregated and met. The clerics brought with them the skills and knowledge and magic they had preserved. What the army had won by force, the clerics held by persuasion and example. That the clerics all wore naked swords did not hurt their cause.

The self-proclaimed King of Agium called together his barons–hard men, little more than thugs who led bands of ten to twenty hands of brigands, ruffians, and ex-mercenaries. The loyalty that bound these men to their barons and bound the barons to the soi-disant king was based on one thing: mutual distrust and fear. Each of the dozen barons knew that if he strayed from the king's will, the others would join to attack him. Each knew that if he became too powerful–or appeared to be too ambitious–the others would join to attack him. They also knew now that their very survival depended upon maintaining a common front. Rumors of the return of the Light to Arcadia had infiltrated the city. Stories were whispered of a new King of Arcadia whose armies were led by immortal paladins.

Within the city, guildsmen, merchants, and burghers were uneasy. The king and his barons were too powerful not to be obeyed, but the stories told that all who served Evil would be held to account when the king and his army arrived. At least a score of City Guardsmen had disappeared and were presumed to have deserted. Farther from the city, resistance to the king's rule was nebulous, but real. Two farm villages on the northeastern marches of the city-state had failed to send the expected tribute to First Market.

Rumors and unrest were not all that had infiltrated the city. By ones and twos, always accompanied by a Thief who was a resident of the city, clerics made their way to Agium. The drug that stilled their minds and bodies and fooled the Semblers on the city's gates would have been anathema in another time. The risk of death or addiction was serious. Only those of sound mind and body could volunteer for these missions.

They were few, but with the support of the survivors of the Thieves Guild of Agium, they insinuated themselves into the life of the city. Like many of the warlords during The Occupation, the King of Agium had executed both Thieves and thieves. This was not because the king thought that stealing was wrong, but because the king thought that stealing by others robbed him of what was his to steal.

The surviving thieves found it difficult–and dangerous–to practice their Craft and fell back on their avocation: the trade by which outsiders knew them. In Agium, many of the thieves were menials–refuse collectors, rag pickers, ostlers, sculleries–or keepers of small and usually dimly lit shops. They filled the gaps between the Guilds, performing tasks that were base, yet essential. Of course, not all thieves were rag pickers, and some were prosperous enough to be called Burghers–and to become targets of the king's greed.

The alliance between cleric and thief was strange but not strained. Word of the alliance had been spread through the most secret and trusted channels of both organizations. A new day comes to Arcadia. The enemy of our enemy is our friend. When our enemy is defeated, we will pledge our mutual respect and tolerance.

This message, alone, might have failed had not a story earlier spread. It told of the cleric who spared the life of a Boy-Thief and then offered his own son hostage to the Thieves Guildmistress. It told of that Guildmistress boldly entering the palace of a Warlord, risking the lives of herself and her son. Naturally, the story–including the unrequited love between the Boy-Cleric and the Boy-Thief–grew with the telling.

The council chambers of the King of Agium stank. It was the stink of bodies too long unwashed. It was the stink of food clotted on clothes and kicked into corners of the room. It was also the stink of fear, a rancid, acrid smell that each man recognized and knew came from himself. "Our ancestors won this city from Arcadia generations ago," the king said. "They took the best that they had to throw at them, and threw it back in their face. We have not weakened since then. We have grown stronger. Our hold is tight.

"Each of you…go back to your towns, your fortresses. Raise an army. Five hundred men at arms from each of you. Equip that army with arms, armor, and food. Be prepared to meet at Cloos in four tendays. We will march through the mountains and meet this prince at Sophie. Should he prove strong, we will fall back and harass him when he passes through the mountains between Sophie and Cloos."

He's going to sacrifice Decan, the baron of that town thought, although he controlled his face.

"Yes," the king said, anticipating the baron's objections. "Decan will capitulate. And then serve as a thorn in his rear!"

I don't trust this plan, the Baron of Decan thought. How can I turn it to my advantage?

The army will be headquartered at Cloos, thought the baron of that town. How can I turn this to my advantage?

The battle will be at Sophie? the Baron of Sophie thought. How can I turn this to my advantage?

"The terrain between us and Agium is difficult. The town is very defensible…which is undoubtedly why it was situated there in the first place," Jon said. He and the others were bent over a table upon which the best maps they could find were spread.

"Father?" Lawsonius asked. "Prester Isle?"

James looked startled and stared at the largest scale map. "It would be a great risk," he said. "But, yes. How would you use it?"

"They will expect us to follow the Royal Road, taking town after town during the march toward Agium. We must not disappoint them," Lawsonius said.

"Huh?" Gentian blurted.

"We should split the Army, with the smaller part going to the west, through the swamp, and moving to Agium from the west. South of Decan, the Royal Road crosses the river twice. Between those two bridges, one of our secret roads leads southwest and then over a causeway through the swamp," he added, seeing the consternation on several faces. "It is sturdy and leads to a town south of the swamp that is linked to Agium by a road. That road is not paved, but it is dry and passable.

"The larger part of the army should march loudly down the Royal Road. We might use some of the Valarian decoys for this part of it. Resistance will be slight. The king and his barons will be rallying to protect Agium. They will do so near Sophie, so they can retreat into the mountains. We will feign an attack on Sophie. It will be strong enough to keep them occupied while the rest of the army, with the help of the fifth column, takes Agium.

"Once Agium is secured, whatever forces are not needed to secure and police the city will march north to become a thorn in the rear of the king's army, while the rest of us press it into the mountains. They cannot forage in the mountains, and will be forced to surrender or starve."

The plan was agreed. Afterwards, Jon and Lawsonius retired, and were alone. The others, understanding the special bond that had developed between these two tweens–teacher and pupil, sage and student–did not intrude.

Jon held Lawsonius closely, and looked into his eyes. "Lawsonius, how do you know your plan will work?" he asked.

Lawsonius sat up in bed. He stared at the low flame of the oil lamp. The light shimmered over his face. Jon watched the boy closely.

"Jon, I do not know. You must know that better than anyone," Lawsonius said. "Why do you question me? Do you doubt my plan? Do you doubt me?"

Jon sat up beside the boy. He did not reach out to him, although he ached to do so. "Lawsonius, you are being petulant and foolish. You know that I do not doubt you. You have been a wonderful student." Jon chuckled. "I think you learned more from War College than I did. But you also know that it is necessary that I question you…not from doubt, but to help you think, to help you plan, to help you fight this battle in your mind from every possible direction."

Lawsonius reflected. He knew that Jon had been trained in the art of war. He did not know where, nor was Jon disposed to tell him, despite his hints. Lawsonius reached a decision.

"Jon, where was this War College?"

After Jon's explanation, Lawsonius kissed Jon, and then touched his cheek. "Had anyone else told me such a story, I would have thought him merely a storyteller who wanders from town to town, exchanging fantasy for pennies or a loaf of bread. Does James know?"

"James found out the day we came to the Monastery," Jon said. "Morgan knows, so does Gentian, for they were present when we told the Seniors. I should have told you sooner. Please don't think that I didn't trust you. We were so accustomed to not telling anyone save when we absolutely had to."

Lawsonius stopped Jon's protestations with a kiss.

The fifth column of clerics, thieves, and the few others they'd recruited was barely large enough to seize the gates of Agium. They cut the ropes of the drawbridge, and raised the portcullis, wedging it in place. They opened the gates, and prepared to die defending them. Many of them did die before the thunder of cavalry announced the arrival of the Army of Arcadia.

Agium was the last of the great cities to fall. With control of the South Mountain Road, it was an easy task to take Calill. The warlord who ruled Barrone fled to sea when the army approached that city, and the people opened the gates before being challenged. Leaving the smallest possible number of troops and clerics to police the major towns, the Army gathered from the four corners of Arcadia, and marched on the capital city.

The Herald's message was simple: surrender or be destroyed.

The name of the person who assassinated the King of Arcadia was never known. Or, if it were known, it was only by a few people, and none revealed it. The discovery of the king's body, throat slit, slumped on his throne, seemed to break the resistance of his followers. They shucked their robes and armor, and disappeared into the crowd. It was rumored that at least one had escaped wearing a woman's clothes.

_There is nothing more difficult to take in hand,_
more perilous to conduct,
or more uncertain in its success,
than to take the lead
in the introduction of a new order of things.
–Machiavelli, The Prince

"That which we have avoided for so long is forced upon us," James said. "Who shall become King of Arcadia?"

"Not king, father, but prince," Lawsonius said.

All save Severus and Jon looked puzzled. Those two nodded with each point. "First," Lawsonius said, "Arcadia has traditionally been a Principality. To inaugurate a prince provides a continuity of tradition. Second, traditionally, kings have ruled by fiat–absolute power devolving from the monarchy. Princes have traditionally ruled with the advice of a Privy Council. The distinction is a fine one, but important. We have seen how the guild councils have been effective in the cities we have won. And, the people of Arcadia have had enough of autocrats."

"You," suggested Prince Richard, looking at Jon.

"No, my prince," Jon said. "I cannot. It is neither my nature nor my desire. I serve no master and ask no one to serve me except through the reciprocal and equal bonds of love and fealty. Besides, we all know one who is eminently more qualified. James."

"No, my friends," James said. "I am near the end of my time in this life. I hope to live long enough to see a victory for the Light, but I have not the energy to rule."

"Um," Morgan's voice was subdued. "Um, may I make a suggestion?"

"Of course," James said. "Why do you hesitate?"

"I am but a farm boy in all this greatness," Morgan said.

"You are a long way from your farm," Jon said, "and a longer way from being a farm boy. Your voice in council is more than welcome, it is needed."

"Well then," Morgan said. "If not Jon, then who better to be Prince than Lawsonius, who has for so long been Jon's student in the arts of war and politics?"

No one could have doubted the legitimacy of the new prince. The coronation was attended by thirty Dwarven kings with their retinues; ten score clerics wearing the lamp of Light and naked swords; an army of Humans polished and disciplined despite the hardship and death of the campaign; and an Elven prince with a retinue of nearly a hundred of his people: soldiers, clerics, and mages.

Criers sped with armed escorts to the furthest reaches of Arcadia to announce not only that Arcadia had a prince who served the Light, but also the words of the prince's coronation oath: To faithfully serve the peoples of Arcadia as a steward of the land; to uphold the Light through action and alliances; to offer justice to all in Arcadia, be they citizen, subject, or sojourner.

The prince's first command was that the Guilds select new Masterguildmasters and send them to Arcadia for confirmation and consultation.

His second command, issued in secret, went only to a friend. Come to Arcadia. Bring your mother and her compères to be recognized. I will swear fealty–a mutually binding oath–with them. My father's promise will be fulfilled.

"Although the Light holds all key cities, crossroads, and towns along important segments of the Royal Road, Darkness and Evil still fester in Arcadia. It will be decades, perhaps centuries before it is all rooted out and burned away.

"Roads must be rebuilt; Temples must be constructed; clerics must be trained and soldiers recruited–" Prince Lawson paused. He looked a bit overwhelmed.

"And coins," Tyler said.

"Huh?" said Prince Lawson.

"It's something Jon told me," Tyler said. "Coins with the sovereign's picture, and with standardized weight help hold a country or nation together, to provide a common sense of identity.

"It's a good thing you're so beautiful," Tyler added. "You'll make a fine profile on the coins."

The planning for the government of Arcadia lasted long into the night. When Tyler was able to separate Jon from the others, he asked, "Why did we have so much bureaucracy, and they have so little here?" Tyler asked.

"When did bureaucracy start on Earth," Jon countered.

"Um, with the invention of agriculture and the creation of surpluses that enabled people to support artisans and bureaucrats, I'm pretty sure," the boy replied.

"Essentially correct," Jon said. "The invention of agriculture allowed but did not mandate the creation of artisans, craftsmen, and specialists. It allowed but did not mandate the creation of bureaucrats, tax collectors, and a priestly class–that is, religion.

"I do not know why we chose to invent bureaucracy, tax collectors, and religion but these people do well without them. Is it something in our nature that does not exist here? Or, did these people's ancestors, having learned their lesson on Earth, decide deliberately to leave some of its evils behind?

"Do you think that World was colonized from Earth?" Tyler asked the key question.

"It's a hypothesis that addresses some of the facts, but not all of them, and which cannot be tested," Jon said. "It does answer some of the questions we've had about Latin and the Roman alphabet. The strongest evidence that I can suggest, however, is the extreme unlikelihood of life identical in nearly all respects having evolved separately on two worlds.

"And the Elves?" Tyler countered.

"Here's the cheap answer," Jon said. "They evolved from Humans. Which means that this world has been inhabited by Humans for many, many more years than our world had when we left it. It must have taken tens of thousands of generations to create the Elves, and the Dwarves."

"Whatever brought us here moves in time and in space, then," Tyler said.

"Hmm?" Jon replied.

"Anatomically modern humans existed on Earth only about 40,000–100,000 years before we left it. They reached this world tens of thousands of generations ago. That would be at least 200,000 years ago, and likely more than that."

"Um hmm," Jon encouraged Tyler to continue.

"And, before you ask, there's clear evidence of evolution on our world and almost certainly not on this one, because of the unlikelihood of identical life evolving on two worlds."

"One more thing," Jon said.

Tyler looked puzzled, and then his face brightened. "We came here long after the first wave of colonization. If we could, others could. It may be that people are all the time coming here and maybe going back.

"I was thinking of some famous disappearances: Judge Crater, Amelia Earhart, and Ambrose Bierce. And, where there is a famous disappearance, couldn't there be a dozen un-famous ones?"

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