The Search for Prince Knight Black [The Books of Retslu II]
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by Joe Vadalma
Description: The Search for Prince Knight Black is a rollicking fantasy about a quest to find the missing Prince Knight Black, husband of the beautiful but shrewish Princess Jennifer of Retslu. It includes ghosts, demons, dragons, witches, sorcerers, a fabulous and wild birthday ball, war, revolution, high adventure, magic and time travel. The story begins where most fairy tales end, after the handsome prince marries the beautiful princess. On a dark and stormy night within Castle Klinton, a quarrel brews between the royal couple. Prince Knight Black regrets his marriage to the shrewish Princess Jennifer, who in her final months of pregnancy has become impossible to live with. After Knight Black stalks from her room and disappears, Prince Black Pawn is born, a ghost predicts disaster for the kingdom and a witch places a curse on the baby. When King Woden hires a sorcerer to help with these problems, Hokum, a prestidigitator and juggler gets the job. A magical amulet is lost, and a denizen of hell predicts calamities for the kingdom. To solve these problems, King Woden sends his best men on quests: General Eric to find and assassinate the missing Prince Knight Black; Minister Dorian, Tiger Lily and the boisterous braggart, Lord Noise, to retrieve the lost talisman; Duke Wisdom and Bishop Faith to defeat the demoness who caused all the mischief; Hokum, the humbug sorcerer, to consult a prophetic book; and Screege, the miserly treasury secretary, to search for the king's missing foster children. Meanwhile, Jennifer is kidnapped by a demon who dwells in her mirror, King Woden collapses into a deathlike coma and King Skeemer, Woden's northern neighbor, conquers Retslu. It's a modern fantasy classic in the making no true fan should miss. In the tradition of Pierre Anthony's Xanth!
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions,
eBookwise Release Date: December 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [559 KB]
Reading time: 352-493 min.
CHAPTER 1. SUMMER STORM
"And they lived unhappily ever after," muttered Prince Knight Black as Princess Jennifer screamed at the servants from her bedroom. It was late afternoon of a sweltering midsummer's day in the diminutive kingdom of Retslu. A week of high temperatures and higher humidity had made the prince's wife, not an easy person to live with in ordinary weather, insufferable. To make matters worse, in the last trimester of her pregnancy she was most uncomfortable. The heat only added to her irritability.
"To think what I went through to marry that shrew," Knight Black mused. To become her bridegroom, he had to win a grueling tournament that King Woden had hosted and go on a quest to locate the Fountain of Youth. The first man to return from this dangerous mission in distant, hostile lands with a bottle of the magical water was given the hand of Woden's spoiled and haughty daughter Jennifer. That fortunate man--Really an unfortunate man, the prince reflected bleakly--after enduring a multitude of hair-raising adventures and overcoming formidable obstacles was himself.
Nonetheless, the truth be told, those were Knight Black's happiest days. He loved the adventurous life, living off the land, fighting evil men and monsters and using his wits to escape dire predicaments. And, he reminisced, there was Cloridia. Beautiful Cloridia, the Amazon who nursed me back to health when I was near death. At the time their affair had seemed a simple dalliance. But now, as he recalled her wholesomeness, her quiet strength, her tenderness and all that she and he had in common, he realized that he was in love with her.
The irony of his present unhappy state of wedlock was that his original reason for competing for Jennifer's hand would, in all probability, never come about. In those days he had ambitions to be king. Supposedly, the man who married Jennifer would inherit the throne upon King Woden's demise. Although it was true that Woden was an old man (now in his eighty-first year) and that Knight Black was his heir apparent, the restoring powers of the Fountain of Youth's magic water caused the aged monarch to appear and have the health of a vigorous thirty-year-old. Barring an accident or violence, he would likely outlive Knight Black.
How gullible I was when I allowed Dorian to relinquish the prize to me, he chided himself. Nonetheless, he smiled as he recalled that day three years ago. Five adventurers had eluded the infamous red dragon who guarded the entrance to the Fountain of Youth. During the ensuing melee, Mordrake, an evil sorcerer; Sly, a thief and Circe, a wicked witch had fallen into the magic water and were transformed into babies. Although Knight Black's friend Dorian had been the first to retrieve the precious fluid, Dorian was in love with the werecat, Tiger Lily and allowed Knight Black to claim the prize. He and his friends had made quite a sight as they carried three naked infants triumphantly through the golden gates of the walls that surrounded the fountain.
Knight Black's woolgathering was interrupted by Jennifer's shrill voice. "Knighty, Knighty,"--oh, how he hated that nickname--"come here at once."
Wearily he plodded down the hallway to Jennifer's apartment. As he neared her door, a young servant girl burst from the room. Tears streamed down her face. In her haste she collided with the prince.
"What's the matter, Mary Anne?"
Mary Anne curtsied and wiped her cheeks with her apron, all in one charming motion. "It's the mistress, Your Grace. She must be feeling poorly, for she's in a foul mood, poor dear."
"I understand. Best you disappear until her spirits brighten. These moods pass as swiftly as they come."
"Thank you, Sire." Mary Anne curtsied again and scurried off.
Jennifer's bedroom was a shambles. Broken crockery lay everywhere, a glass of milk had spilled on the carpet and clothing was strewn about. Jennifer looked rumpled and frowzy as she sprawled out on a divan heaped with pillows.
"Knighty," she screeched, "have Mary Jane beaten."
"Now, now, dear," he said soothingly as he dumped pieces of an expensive vase into a waste can. "What has your maid done so terrible that she must be beaten?"
"Stop that fussing and look at me. What has she done? She brought sour milk. Ugh, the taste will be in my mouth all day."
"Don't be so harsh on the girl. In this weather it curdles rapidly. Besides, it's the cook's fault if anyone's."
"That's it! Defend her." Her tone, however, was a little less harsh as her temper cooled. "She should've tasted it first. But you're right, the cook must also be beaten."
"We can't whip the servants for every little transgression, dear. How would it look? Are you warm? Do you want me to fan you?"
"Yes, fan me. And hand me those chocolates to sweeten my tongue."
As he gave her the candy, he thought, Nothing could sweeten your tongue, Jennifer. He removed an ostrich feather fan from the wall and waved it over her. As he performed this chore, he thought, So this is what it's come to. I'm reduced to an eunuch slave, good only to move the air above my mistress's head. Aloud, he asked, "How do you feel? Any sign of labor?"
"Don't speak of that. I should've never let you touch me, you evil man. I look and feel horrid. Labor should've started weeks ago. You've impregnated me with a monster. I'll have to suffer months more while the awful thing grows until my stomach bursts open like an overripe melon. Fan harder."
"You'll feel differently once our child is born, dear. Won't it be nice to cradle a tiny babe in your arms?"
"Ugh. It'll go straight to a wet nurse. I hate children. Look at those brats you brought home from the quest. Three monsters. And now that they're part grown, they're into everything. You should've let them drown." As she took up another topic, her mood changed to one of almost cheerfulness. "If I'd married Dorian, things would've been different. He'd never let me suffer like this. By the way, where is your charming friend? I haven't seen him all day."
Dorian, always Dorian, Black Knight thought bleakly. What does she see in that mundane youth? He was envious of Dorian, who attracted every woman he met, including Jennifer. I wish she had married him. Then I'd be free. As you can see, he was ambivalent about the situation. But, of course, Dorian cared nothing for Jennifer.
"He's probably telling stories to children or hanging around the kitchen teaching the cook recipes. You know how he loves to experiment with food."
"Why don't you invite him up for a game of chess, Knighty darling?" she cooed in a syrupy tone. "I know you like the game. I'll watch."
Knight Black frowned and his swarthy complexion became even darker. "So that you can flirt with him," he said bitterly.
"What a nasty remark. I was just thinking of you. You seem bored."
"Thinking of me, were you?"
"Yes. Thinking of you."
"How is it Jennifer, whenever you think of me, Dorian's name always comes up?"
At the same time that a stormy quarrel was brewing in Jennifer's bedroom, as it not uncommon on torrid summer days in the late afternoon, a storm of nature was brewing outdoors. Dark clouds gathered on the horizon. In the distance the muted rumble of thunder echoed across the valley. A wind gust rattled the shutters, and the first few rain drops splattered on the sill. Knight Black dropped the fan and hurried to close the window.
"Leave it open," Jennifer yelled as Knight Black closed the latch. "A little rain won't hurt anything. Perhaps the breeze will dispel the stench in here." Unaccountably she burst into tears.
Now, if there was one thing that disconcerted Knight Black to distraction, it was Jennifer's tendency to bawl loudly in the middle of a quarrel, just when he was making some point or other. It seemed grossly unfair and put him at a distinct disadvantage; he felt simultaneously guilty, pity for her and even angrier.
"Oh Gods, must you cry," he shouted out of frustration. "Stop this instant or I'll leave the room."
Her reply was a cold, "Go then. You have no sympathy for your poor suffering wife." She followed this up by hurling the box of chocolates at his head. It missed his ear by inches and smashed against the wall.