THE KINGDOM CHRONICLES

THE KINGDOM AND THE CROWN

The Kingdom and the Crown cover by S. R. Ford author books

Blood has coated the land in slippery sheets from the moment Tolucan took the throne. Lies, rumors, and sorcery destroyed the treaties which had been in place for two-thousand years. Friendships were forgotten, alliances were betrayed, and an entire race was plunged into the terrifying realms of annihilation.


Now only three of their kind remain. They do not know they are the last and they are kept in hiding. What is to become of them? It is rumored they will overcome the king and restore the peaceful days of old. Will they? Can they? We can only hope. Tolucan’s power is spreading across the continent while it is reported that dragons have been sighted along the mountainous skyline to the north. It seems the time is drawing near sooner than I had expected...

 

ISBN-13: 978-1481888479

ASIN: B007NUYXNA

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Prologue

Five Years Ago...

 

Another town… gone! the king thought as he stepped through the ashen remains of yet another town still empty-handed. The aroma of charred flesh and hair, boiled blood, and smoldering wood intoxicated the air. Where are you hiding!? And who started this blasted fire? I’ll have their head!

The town had been vacated and set ablaze in the same moments that the king, with his army, had entered the town. It was a sign to the king that he had been close to his prize. They had burned the town obviously to hide something from him; of that he was sure. There had been traitors in this town, and he had almost caught up to them. He was close, and yet they had slipped through his fingers as if he were trying to ensnare some pesky moth that had found entrance to his bed chamber. Now his fear was a potential of having lost them again. He had to find the one—just that one. One death was all he needed to be done with the war, the rebellion, and this enormous mistake once and for all.

The king tortured his already anguished mind for having missed this priceless opportunity. Slowly he turned to leave and moved back through his men who were scattered among the dimming embers seeking anything of potential value. He was about to swing onto his mount and give up on this round, forfeiting it to his opponent, when a cry was made, “Sir! I’ve found something!”

The king whirled about and with the rest of the men rushed toward the sound’s originator. As they neared and his men made a path for the king to approach, he heard his general demand whatever had been found from the youthful foot soldier at the center of the circle. The group turned and bowed as the king passed by. He noticed that they seemed nearly as excited on the outside as he was deep down—a mixture of hope, anxiety, and a twinge of doubtful fear.

He had watched the young boy with tanned skin and black hair carefully. Although the rest of the men never knew, it was the king who had placed the youth in this particular garrison despite his tender age and lack of experience and dedication. It even surprised the king to find that it was him who stood next to his second-in-command and not one of the other men. However, it pleased the king to see the boy finally showing some loyalty.

He stared at the stripling for a short time, searching him, before turning his attention back to the officer who was searching quickly through the discovered trinket, a partially burnt, leather-bound book. Noticing the king’s watchful eye, the general hurriedly closed the book and extended it toward the king with a wicked smile. “Your Highness, I think he indeed has found something very valuable. This is the historian’s record book.”

In a flash the king snatched the book and carefully opened the cover. On the first page was the name of the author, and it enraged him. He had been close—disgustingly close. Hurriedly he pushed away the initial anger and looked up at the youthful soldier.

“Boy,” he said with a smile, “you have done a great work for me. You will be rewarded greatly for this discovery.”

Then as he turned to leave and moved toward the edge of the circle, he shot to the general, “See that the lad is promoted, well fed, and reward him further as you see fit.”

The book was badly burned on the cover and the edges of the pages. He returned with it to his large command tent and began to randomly examine the contents of the charred, brittle pages freshly penned just weeks earlier.

 

The Origin of their Race

 

Their progenitors arrived upon this continent exactly 2,137 years ago in the year 3089. They came from the eastern sea in seven great ships fashioned of wood and steel. The vessels were propelled by the power of wind and a strange system involving fire and steam. The number of the original party is unknown, as also are the contents of the vessels outside of the people, for they remained on board even after landing.

As if quickened by magic, their leader learned the tongue of our people in a matter of days. He then approached our great king Elisut with a plea.

Their leader was a king himself. He and those who remained true to their kingdom had been driven from their homeland by a mutinous war. They had suffered great losses and sought a place of sanctuary—any small speck of land which the race of humanity took no claim on—where they could gather supplies and prepare to sail on.

They were granted more than their plea. As a mark of treaty and a hope for a strong friendship in the future, they were allowed to take, as a permanent possession, the entirety of the Kokanan Plains, a region of barren tundra equal in area to half the kingdom. Its regions were marked by the natural boundary of the Zulacon Mountain Range, a vast chain of nearly impassible mountains, many of which are actively volcanic. It was territory not at all desirable, and far from inhabitable.

The craftsmanship of their ships had frightened King Elisut. They were gargantuan, capable of easily holding thousands, and their long-termed stay was not a welcome idea. But he had no reason to count them as evil, so to them he gave the Kokanan Plains. For if they were forced to struggle just to survive, there would be no chance for them to make an attack on the kingdom. If they survived the plains and chose to stay, then they might be a welcome ally and a friend worth having.

They accepted without any hesitation, even after they were told of the harsh climate. It seemed as though they were desperate or afraid that something might catch up to them if they did not hurry.

Taking leave by ship, they sailed north up the coast, using a small vague map that had been prepared for them. No word was heard again of them for many months. Many figured they had either died or given up.

 

The king, growing bored, turned back to the earlier pages of the book where he found a diagram of a man from the north and varying attributes of the strange race.

 

…The northerners, nicknamed ‘elves’ by the human race, are of a pale complexion. One fairer than any human’s—nearly pure white. Save for the hair atop their heads and upon their brows, they are hairless. They have pointed ears and are strong physically and mentally. They move with a naturally graceful flow. Age never withers their bodies, and they can live many hundreds of years in span…

 

“Abominations!” the king whispered in disgust as he changed pages again and paused at a new heading.

 

How the War Began

 

After many months of silence following their disappearance to the north, a small envoy came through the Zulacon Mountains and brought word to King Elisut. The people were alive, settled, and planning to remain for a short number of years. They would grow fresh food, store it, and leave when they had enough accumulation.

They remained for more than two millennia.

As the many years progressed, a relationship formed between the two nations—a friendship. It was very distant and fragile, but it was a friendship nonetheless. It was just the thing the kings had hoped for. They maintained a defined separation, so as to avoid any possibility of something souring their tender relationship. Stout treaties were enacted which made any uninvited passage north or south through the Zulacon Mountains a crime punishable by death. The only exception was the sending of each nation’s ambassadors semiannually to the other side. This made occasion for word and council to be exchanged face to face four times a year on the equinoxes and the solstices. Otherwise, they remained isolated.

Many feared the race, because their small band had set stakes and tamed an untamable wilderness for much longer than the initially stated months or years. They never left; they never moved. They stayed and they were thriving. Soon rumor and slander began to fly as it always does, and on a few occasions, men were killed as they tried to penetrate the great wall of Zulacon. Peace was the majority master, and as the two thousand years slid by, the strain on the friendship began to relax more and more and correspondence became more open.

Then came the great simultaneous famine and drought. Our nation was struggling just to stay alive. Crops burned in barren soil, and every heaven-sent drop of water that was not caught in barrels and jugs would vanish into the dust of the earth as if it had never fallen. As the autumnal equinox came, so did a miracle. When our ambassadors returned from their duties in Kokanan, they were accompanied by seven hundred men of the north. Each drove a wagon full of life-saving provisions, supplies, and aids. With the great wagon train came their king. He evaluated our situation and asked why we had not told them sooner. He promised he would send more provisions now that he had witnessed the extent of our hardship.

True to his word, he commissioned men to bring an equal amount of saving provisions every month. Not enough to feed us like kings, but enough to be divided throughout the kingdom and keep our nation healthy. Never did he request repayment or favor. He acknowledged, as did we, that the plague had been denied passage over the high peaks of the Zulacon, and thus enabled him to have a surplus that he could send to our aid. He counted it a gift from God and suggested we do the same.

No sooner had winter killed off the famine and brought enough snow and rain to heal our failing water supply than spring came, and at the appointed time, the northern ambassadors came to announce that their aid would be discontinued from that point on. Again we were left to ourselves, and correspondence became restricted once again.

Only a few years passed before the plague returned with more venom and ferocity than ever before recorded in our history, and with it came a new king.

His father, having taken ill and then having been murdered while he lay in his sickbed, left his throne and the kingdom in the hands of his superstitious and wicked son. At the time of the solstice, the new king waited for the return of his vassals in company with the northern race and their seemingly endless supply of provisions, but to his dismay, they returned alone. No aid was coming.

In a flash of rage, the young king turned to his malicious superstitions and idols to seek guidance. His fear of the plague and the distress of having no aid from the north soon crippled his mind and he began to lose his sanity. He took up the only route he saw feasible: attack the north and take the supplies that he needed. But he knew his people would never march against them, for they loved and respected them too much for their aid during the previous famine. So he began to spread lies throughout the kingdom. He twisted into his lies the false traditions and superstitious myths of his idolatry, and hence was born the falsely depicted, degenerate belief of what the elves were and are. They were depicted as a loathsome group of creatures. He declared their nation to be a nation of deceivers who were waiting for the famine to destroy our people, so they would invade and bring every human into slavery.

Soon he began to believe it himself, and more of his twisted superstitions were woven into the fabric of his lie until even he lost himself to it. He now believed the race to be in possession of a power or magic which granted them the ability to flourish in their wasteland whilst he and his kingdom were rotting in paradise. He concluded that it was their language which gave them this power, for from their first arrival, they had ensured that their language was never allowed to fall on human ears. They all knew the language of humanity, and it was the only language to be spoken when south of the Zulacon Mountains or in any other company with humanity.

He devoted his time to plotting and devising his plan to rid his kingdom of its northern neighbors—to take possession of their thriving nation, obtain their language, reap their fields, and destroy any civilization they had. They were to be exterminated, and that was that.

After gathering his armies together, the king sent a new ambassador north, one who had agreed to his crime. He sent a false cry for help, claiming that a nation to the south had seized upon the opportunity provided by the plague and had invaded his country. He requested permission to evacuate fifteen thousand people from the south and have them camp along the Zulacon Mountains so as to keep them safe and away from the battlefront. It was a sly maneuver that gained him more than he had anticipated.

Word returned quickly from King Zarrys of the northern kingdom. He offered greater provision. He had begun to create a place for those who would be evacuated. The fifteen thousand would be taken in and provided for until it was safe for them to return to their homes. They could be received through the mountains as soon as they could come.

The offer infuriated the king, for surely the northern kingdom would absorb in his people, treat them as citizens, and overcome him simply by taking care of his people better than he could. He had to act fast before their loving offer could undermine him and his plot.

He chose fifteen thousand of his best and most loyal soldiers and disguised them as shabby refugees. Men and women were chosen, as both genders were participants in his army, and he even threw in a few children for good measure. Then he sent them north with specific plans. Upon their escorted arrival, they were divided into groups of three thousand and placed in encampments outside five of the northerners’ greatest cities, including their capital, where the greatest provisions could be assembled for them.

They were well tended to for three days. At even on the third day, after their northern caretakers had gone to their own homes for the night, the army put into motion the king’s plan. They dressed in armor and at midnight scattered throughout their respective cities. At one o’clock, during guard changes, they began the work they had been sent to do. They entered each home, butchered the residents in their sleep, and began setting fire to the buildings.

Hundreds had been killed before an alarm sounded at last. Hundreds more were killed before a retaliation came into motion. But the retaliation was an amazing feat, in that, by unknown means, no human was left alive in Kokanan when dawn broke across the sky. The massacre had been stopped and reciprocated.

The king had demanded word of report to be sent the following day after the attack if all went according to plan, but three days after the appointed day, no word had yet arrived. This brought fear and anger into the king’s heart. That evening, however, a horseman appeared on the horizon. He was heralded by a loud horn which announced his coming unmistakably.

The king stood, waiting for him, in the main courtyard when the stallion thundered into the castle and its rider bellowed the king’s name: Tolucan!

The rider was shrouded under a long black cloak and hood which denied view of his visage. He did not dismount from the horse as he called for the king again without using any title of nobility. This enraged the king as he stepped into the open air to face the herald.

“What treasonous behavior is this?!” King Tolucan demanded. “Where is your honor? Why are you come tardy and acting with such disrespect? Does my crown mean nothing?!”

Wordlessly, the horseman wrenched a large scroll from under his cloak and extended it out toward the king. Then before the king could take it, he withdrew it, broke the seals, unrolled it slightly, then turned its text toward the king whose face twisted with a dark smile.

The leather scroll was covered in scarlet red characters which the king had never seen before. It was their language, part of what he sought.

“Your response troubles me deeply, oh mighty king,” the horseman spoke harshly while mocking the king’s title. He threw the scroll into the king’s chest and spat at him. “You wanted our language?! Well, there it is, you great coward!”

King Tolucan’s face wrapped in horror as the words sank in. He began to tremble as he moved his eyes from the scroll to the face of the shadowed rider. He tried to speak, but all that passed his lips was a terrified babble and a defeated moan.

“You’re… You’re… You’re…” the king dribbled.

“I am sent as a messenger from King Zarrys,” the rider declared boldly. In one swift motion, he whipped back his hood to reveal his identity. He had long black hair, piercing eyes, and a fearsome expression. His flawless skin had been marred by an aggressor’s blade. One vicious slice ran down the left side of his face, and a second crossed it, starting at the ear then jagging violently downward as it came under his eye.

He looked around him at the guards who had by now drawn their swords and bows. Then he thrust a finger toward King Tolucan, “You are a traitor to our thousand year peace! In the heart of idolatry, you turned to beliefs in sorcery and magic! Then to wet your bloodthirsty tongue, you blinded your people, deceived them, and sent them to war against us under a deception of peace.

“You sent them to butcher and maim us so that you could gain possession of our language and our property? Now every one of the fifteen thousand is dead, and your plot has been exposed! We gleaned the whole of it from your generals before they were terminated.”

His words had stopped the approaching guard and brought the king’s eyes to the scroll. Noticing the gaze, the horseman continued, “Tell me, oh, king, if we use the same sounds, similar characters, and similar rules of speech, how could our language bear any power? Words have no power! Power comes from authority—authority which you do not have! You are nothing but a fool!”

“Who are you to call me a fool, elf?!” King Tolucan roared. “You are a nation of devils and murderers! My people continue to die every day from starvation while you sit in comfort and fatness!”

Like lightning the king found himself staring down the golden blade of the horseman’s sword. “Do not defame me with your lies and derogatory slander! You and your people will rue the day you took advantage of our trust and attacked us. We were going to give you a portion of our prosperity to sustain and aid you once it could be gathered in, but instead we will now fill your kingdom with blood, and rot, and fire, and death!

“That scroll is a declaration of offenses and war written by my king, himself. His own blood was used as ink for the quill as a mark of his vow to see your treason justly dealt with. It is a pledge to rend the kingdom from you and plunge the whole human race into the afterlife if necessary. Your reign is at an end, Tolucan!”

Then as fast as he had come, the horseman whirled his horse around and vanished into the fading twilight. No one moved. The guards stood with exasperated horror, looking to the king, who himself stood in a frozen stupor. His plan had failed, and because of it he stood on the brink of a possible extinction. War had truly begun; the war neither race ever wanted...

 

“Failed!?” the king scoffed. “Failed?! Extinction? Who faced extinction? We outnumbered that godforsaken race one hundred to one! That merely put my plans into motion. Now look what has come of it! They’re gone! Every last one of those elves is dead, and I have the largest kingdom that any human king has ever ruled. I’ve conquered three nations in nine years! I control the entire continent, and you call my plans a failure? Just you wait, my cowardly rebel. When I find you, I’ll show you just how much of a failure I am.”

Desiring to fuel his loathing even more, he turned back to the inside cover:

A record made by the hand of Tiphisus, Head of the Encampment of Peace; kept so the three may know of how their progenitors were exterminated by Tolucan the Tyrant.

 

“Three? There were no survivors! I’ve killed every last elf on this continent!” the king wondered aloud and hastily turned through more of the pages. A sudden fear was awakened inside him as he found the last entry in the book. Still incomplete, the section’s title made him stare.

 

Separated, Hidden, Kept Safe

 

A few moments later, after scanning what had been included in the text, the king bellowed out his general’s name in a panicked rage, then waited only a second or two for his head to appear in the tent’s doorway.

King Tolucan turned to face him and hissed through gritted teeth, “Three of them survived!”

 

 

This excerpt was taken from The Kingdom and the Crown by S. R. Ford.

Copyright 2012, 2013 S. R. Ford. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing.

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