True Love Never Fails: 2. Serious Mission

Gabriel led the remaining suitors to the stables. “Since you guys did an excellent job with giving advice to people yesterday, the King wants to see if you will be able to apply that same wisdom when such situations happen to you. You will be accompanying a group to a city-state within five days. There are several places that need attention, but the King chose the closest ones so that you may return in time for the last challenge. Gabriel,” the servant winked at the grinning suitor who bore the same name,” you are going to Flera, stable number nine. Vitus, you are going to Athelea, stable number six. Tarcissius, you are going to Itame, stable number eight. Pedro, you are going to Ameriton, stable number five. Stanislaus, you are going to Egytro, stable number three. John, you are going to Fralis, stable number eleven. Camillo, you are going to Sisermo, stable number seven. Aloysius, you are going to Porsaw, stable number twelve. And Dominic, you are going to Julhem, stable number two. Your groups are ready and waiting, you’d better get going so that you can get back. Good luck, and have a safe trip!” Gabriel shook hands with each of the suitors, then pointed them towards the stables they needed to go to. The nine fellows took off for the stables they were to meet their groups in. When Dominic walked into stable number two, he knew exactly who two of the members were, as their conversation revealed.
“If that woman, Jezebel, or whatever her name is, put up a statue of Baal, I’m going to tear it down.”
“Are you going to need my help?”
“Only to keep her and her men off of me while I do it.” Dominic could imagine the owner of that voice grinning from ear to ear, which was happening until the grin disappeared into surprise. “Dominic! It’s great to see you!”
Dominic had stepped out into view. “It’s great to see you too, Symphorian. And you as well, Pancratius,” he grinned at the two young men who came to embrace him.
“Well, I’m glad the three of you are well acquainted, but we’d better be on our way,” came another voice. The three fellows turned and saw two middle-aged men dressed in the styles of the Fralisians.
Pancratius stepped forward, “May I ask who you are? We are expecting Professor Elijah and his assistant Father Simon.”
The two men laughed. “I told you the disguises work,” said the older of the two. They took off several layers of the disguise.
“Professor Elijah! Father Simon! I didn’t recognize you!” exclaimed Pancratius.
Elijah chuckled,” That was the whole point. And you can thank young Dominic for giving me the idea.” He winked at the astonished Dominic while his two friends glanced at him.
“You gave him the idea?” asked Symphorian incredulously.
“No, he came up with the idea himself,” replied Dominic.
“You are not only wise, but modest too. Well, we are all here, we should get going. And for further reference, I am Mr. Edward Dubois, and this is my partner Mr. Steven Mueret. We are in search of a fantastic wine for our new restaurant, The Rose and The Ivy, and we heard of Naboth’s excellent vineyard, so we are checking it out. The three of you might have to keep an eye out for anyone who might have some details of the trial. You will be in some of the best positions to find information. After all, you did come with us, so wanting to help us out with the search would be most natural,” Elijah said while he and Father Simon put their disguises back on.
“Indeed it would, Profes. . . I mean, Mr. Dubois,” replied Pancratius. “Well, we should get going, we have a ways to go, we’ll chat some more when we break.” As he spoke he mounted his horse.
“Hey, Pancreas, want to race?” asked Symphorian.
“As long as you’re ready to eat my dust, Symphony,” replied Pancratius with a grin.
“And by the time you’ve finished your banter, I would win,” remarked Dominic before he galloped off.
“You know he’s right,” said Symphorian.
“Well, why are we still here!” shouted Pancratius as he took off after Dominic, with Symphorian close behind.
“Think we should, Professor?” asked Father Simon, as he was mounting his horse.
“Well, time is of the essence, so definitely,” replied Elijah. The two men were soon on their way, trying to catch up to the three ahead.
They rode for several hours before stopping. They let the horses rest for an hour before they were off again. They reached an inn in Iristin just as night was falling. Dominic recognized the man waiting for them as Lionel, another of the King’s servants. He ushered the weary travelers inside.
“Please have some supper and some rest before getting into the carriage,” said Lionel.
“But what if we were to fall asleep?” asked Symphorian.
“Then I shall wake you up long enough to get you on the carriage. You can finish your sleep there. I am going to put your things in the carriage and finish harnessing the horses while you eat.” Lionel then bowed and left the travelers to their evening meal.
“I am sorry, my friends, I should have told you this earlier, but I didn’t want to dampen your spirits. But I’m afraid it can’t wait any longer,” began Elijah, after they had finished eating.
“Tell us what?” asked Pancratius.
“About the governor’s wife, Jezebel, and her religion.”
“You mentioned something about it last night,” remarked Dominic.
“I did, but I didn’t go into all the details, and neither Pancratius nor Symphorian know much about the situation. She is a follower of Baal, more specifically of Kama, Cupid’s archenemy. We would do well to speak very little of our powerful friends.”
“If that’s the case, then maybe we should change Dominic’s name as well, since just about everyone knows that the children of Hephaestus Eumenide and Charles Savio are good friends,” remarked Symphorian.
“You’re right, I had completely forgotten about that. I think Jezebel has been searching for information about any of Cupid’s friends and family so that she could send that information to Kama,” replied Elijah. He glanced at Dominic, “ Since we have to change your name as well, perhaps we could say that you are my nephew and you are thinking of working for me. We’ll change your last name to Leroy, but do you want to change your first name?”
“I don’t know,” sighed Dominic.
“Well, what you could do is go by Nic, it’s not only a nickname for Nicholas, but it’s also a nickname for Dominic. Most people associate Nic with Nicholas rather than Dominic, so it won’t cross their minds that your name is Dominic,” remarked Symphorian.
“Yeah, I could do that. So then, I guess I’m Nic Leroy,” said Dominic.
“Sounds good to me,” replied Elijah.
“And to me,” echoed Father Simon
“Same here,” yawned Symphorian.
“Uh-oh, looks like Lionel needs to hurry up with that carriage or someone is going to sleep soon,” grinned Pancratius.
“Oh, keep quiet,” mumbled Symphorian, trying to keep his eyes open.
“We know that Baal is Kama’s father, but who is his mother?” asked Dominic, changing the subject.
“Apollo and I have heard many rumors about that, but we have narrowed it down to the two most likeliest, Lilith and Jezebel herself.” The three teens gasped while Father Simon nodded his head.
“It would actually make sense that Jezebel is Kama’s mother, she is a beautiful woman. Not only that, but the way she speaks about him and Baal doesn’t sound like a woman adoring her gods, she sounds more like a woman who is proud of her family,” Father Simon pointed out.
“That’s interesting,” remarked Symphorian, rubbing his chin. Pancratius started chuckling. “What’s so funny?” asked Symphorian.
“Well, Lionel has some extra time. You’re wide awake now, thanks to your love of learning,” winked Pancratius. Everyone else laughed while Symphorian glared at Pancratius, who only grinned back. Symphorian then nearly jumped out of his chair when a hand touched his shoulder making the rest of his party laugh even harder. The teen glanced up sheepishly at the owner of the hand.
“The carriage is ready. We can go whenever you are ready,” said Lionel. He then turned to walk to the door, but Dominic could tell that he was stifling a laugh.
“We should get going,” said Elijah, rising from the table. “We still have several hours left of travel. We will have to leave Julhem by Wednesday night in order to get Dominic back to Rosirim in time for the last challenge. And I suggest we leave our merriment here. The situation in Julhem is so dire that we will be too busy to even joke with each other,” said Elijah, a sad look coming into his eyes.
“Yes, but Professor, remember, we Fralisians do not know much of what is going on in Julhem and we are excited about opening our new restaurant. Let’s wait until we get there and let the news dampen our spirits then. We do not want to give ourselves away too quickly.”
“Very good point, Father Simon. Then I guess we won’t leave our merriment here,” grinned Elijah.
“Oh, and before we head out, we should get Dominic changed to match us,” said Father Simon, rummaging through his bag for some extra clothes. He then took Dominic into a room to change. A few minutes later, Father Simon came back beaming, “They fit rather well. What do you think, Professor?” Dominic walked out dressed in a white shirt, purple vest, black pants, shoes, and jacket, with a purple hat, a red rose pinned to his vest.
“Looks very good, very . . . . Fralisian,” grinned Elijah. “Then again, since Dominic is a Muriandoan, he can pull it off much better than I can.” He chuckled, “Alright, our party is ready to go then. Dominic, I’ll fill you in on all the details about the restaurant so that you can answer any questions with ease. Now let’s be off!” He then led the group out the door towards the carriage.
. . . . . .
Dominic woke up with a start, the carriage had hit a rather large bump. He glanced at his companions, they were still asleep. Go figure, I’m the only one who would wake up. He glanced out the window, the sun was just starting to rise over the horizon. Well, I am glad to be awake for this, smiled Dominic, it’s beautiful. He continued to watch the sun bring light and color to the world while the rumbling of the carriage wheels was joined by the songs of birds. Soon, he could hear the chattering of the waking animals, followed by the moans and groans of his traveling companions.
“Oh, my back! This is the last time I ever sleep in a carriage,” groaned Elijah. Dominic could hear some popping sounds as Elijah stretched. “Ah, that feels better. So, how did my nephew like his very first, overnight carriage ride?”
Dominic chuckled, “I think it’s alright, uncle.”
“Only alright? It’s fun to go sleep in one place and wake up in another!” said Symphorian.
“Not only that, but you can sleep whenever you want and blame it all on the bumpy roads if you wake up,” grinned Pancratius.
Dominic laughed, “Well, I can definitely say that a bump woke me up early this morning, but it was well worth it as I got to see the sun rise and hear the morning songs of the birds.”
“What! I’ve always wanted to see that!! Why didn’t you wake me up?” Symphorian exclaimed.
“Well, I didn’t know you wanted to see that, otherwise I would have waken you up. I promise to wake you up if I’m awake that early on the return trip,” replied Dominic.
“Alright,” sighed Symphorian.
“How about this, if any one of us is awake that early on the return trip, we’ll wake everyone else, alright?” suggested Pancratius.
“Good idea, let’s do that,” replied Dominic.
“Yes, let’s. Uh, Mr. Dubois, Mr. Meuret, would you like to be waken up for the sunrise?” asked Symphorian.
“I wouldn’t mind it. I’m actually glad we are doing this on the return trip, as there should be less I have to worry about,” replied Elijah.
“I would like to see the sunrise myself,” responded Father Simon.
“So, it’s unanimous, whoever wakes up as the sun is rising wakes up everyone else so that we may see it as well as hearing the birds,” said Pancratius. Everyone nodded.
“Oh, look! We’re coming to the main castle of Julhem!” exclaimed Symphorian. Everyone, except Elijah, looked out the window and tried to see the magnificent structure they would be entering. Dominic could only see part of the stone wall, too many trees were obscuring his view. When he sat back in his seat, he started feeling butterflies in his stomach. He was excited to be able to visit one of the country’s first cities, but he was also nervous as he might have to face off against the possible mother of Kama. He might even meet Kama himself, and Cupid wouldn’t be there to fight him. Pancratius is a good soldier, but I don’t think he could hold Kama off for long. Cupid’s the only person I know of who could even scratch Kama. Dominic shook his head, I can’t think like that, I have to concentrate on the task at hand. He noticed his companions were watching him.
“Penny for your thoughts, nephew?” asked Elijah.
“Oh, um, was just thinking about the possibility of meeting Kama, but I figured that it would be better to concentrate on the mystery of Naboth’s vineyard, and . . . oh man,” groaned Dominic, placing his head in his hands. Pancratius and Symphorian started chuckling.
“You’ve already started calling it a mystery, eh? And you’ve given it a nice title too. I’m definitely giving you my clues,” winked Symphorian. Dominic grinned back.
“Have you solved many mysteries?” asked Father Simon.
“Not really, only four,” replied Dominic.
“Only four? You’re being too modest, Nic. If I remember correctly, you’ve solved eight,” remarked Pancratius.
“Solving eight mysteries doesn’t make me a detective. Even a real amateur has solved more than twenty mysteries,” said Dominic.
“Doesn’t matter, you still have more experience than the rest of us,” winked Father Simon.
“It’s still good to know we have something of an amateur detective in our midst,” smiled Elijah. No more was said on the matter as the carriage pulled up to the inn they would be staying at for the duration of their visit.
After unpacking, the five separated and set off on their different missions, Pancratius to see to the status of the soldiers while Symphorian went to check on how Ahab was faring in his leadership skills. Elijah, Father Simon, and Dominic set off to find out anything about Naboth and his vineyard. Later that evening, the five situated themselves in the room that Dominic, Elijah, and Father Simon shared.
“So, what did you two find out?” asked Elijah.
“Well, some of the soldiers are worried about Jezebel’s ways. She had gotten one of their commanding officers to find a man who heard Naboth speaking against Ahab, the King, and our God,” replied Pancratius.
“Funny that she should use that charge considering she’s a worshiper of Baal,” remarked Dominic, thoughtfully.
“That’s what I thought, but I also think it could be a smoke screen. Once she’s gotten herself in a good position of authority, then she’ll come out full force with tributes to Baal. Only a few soldiers could tell me about the ceremonies, and they said that only the highest positions and a few loyal subjects are allowed in, there are some soldiers who don’t even know that Jezebel worships Baal,” continued Pancratius.
“That’s a possibility. Symphorian, what did you learn?” asked Dominic.
“Pretty much along those same lines, though I had to figure that out for myself, they apparently could only give me hints as to what was going on. Not all of them are on her side, it’s just that they are scared of her because of what happened to Naboth. He was, in fact, one of the permanent advisers the King chose for the governors of Julhem. He had asked for some time off to tend to his vineyard, but once Ahab married Jezebel, he began preparing to come back to his advising job. According to one adviser, Naboth’s papers were on their way back when he was placed on trial and executed. They arrived only a few hours after his death,” Symphorian said sadly.
“How long was it from the time he sent the papers to the King till they arrived?” asked Elijah.
“They said eleven days,” replied Symphorian.
“That doesn’t make sense, eight days is the longest time frame for a round trip between here and Rosirim,” remarked Father Simon.
“Then she must have known about it and made sure the papers were delayed long enough to put Naboth on trial and have him executed. The King did choose Naboth personally, so he would have had the power to strip Ahab of his rank and send her back to wherever she came from. If Pancratius’ hunch is correct, she is planning on rising in rank and Naboth would have ruined her chance. But from what we’ve heard from some of the locals, there was another reason,” said Dominic. He glanced at Elijah.
“I’ll let you and Father Simon take this,” he replied to Dominic’s look, then turned to thinking.
“Alright, well, from what we’ve heard, Ahab has always wanted Naboth’s vineyard, even more so now that he took time off to take care of it. A guard was kind enough to take us on a tour through the vineyard. I must say that it is very lovely indeed,” said Dominic.
“And the wine was very good,” added Father Simon.
“You shall have to take his word for it, I didn’t have any,” grinned Dominic. “Anyway, the vineyard is right outside the castle, Ahab can see it from his window. Not only that, but something is being built where Naboth’s house used to stand, and it doesn’t look like a house. The guard told us that something special was being built for Jezebel and that once it’s done, that area will be off-limits for anyone without a signed pass from Ahab or Jezebel. The guard didn’t go into what was being made, I don’t think he knew, but I think it’s a temple to Baal. So, here’s what I figure, first of all, Ahab and Jezebel both wanted Naboth’s property, could have been for different reasons, but they both wanted it and now they have it. And secondly, Jezebel needed Naboth out of the way if she was to get anywhere up high to infiltrate and undermine our country. Think that’s enough for the King, Professor?” Dominic turned to Elijah.
“Yes, but we still need some kind of proof. All we’ve gotten are hints, no real proof. Pancratius, I want you to take Symphorian and find that witness your soldier friend mentioned, he may be able to give us something solid. Dominic and Father Simon, I want you two to stay here and have everything packed and ready to leave by the time the three of us return,” said Elijah.
“May I ask what you are doing, Professor?” asked Symphorian.
“Some scolding that is long overdue,” smiled Elijah.
“Oh, in other words, we should all be ready to run for our lives,” said Father Simon.
Elijah chuckled, “Pretty much.”
“What time will we be running for our lives so that Pancratius and I get back here in time?” asked Symphorian.
“Governor Ahab takes his walk through the vineyard sometime after lunch, does that give you two enough time to talk to the witness?” asked Elijah.
“It will be cutting it close, but I think we can manage. Maybe Dominic and Father Simon could have lunch waiting for us as well so we can have some extra time,” said Pancratius.
“Sure, no problem,” said Father Simon, while Dominic nodded.
“Well, that’s settled. Let’s get some sleep now, we’re going to need it for tomorrow,” said Elijah, shooing Pancratius and Symphorian out of the room.
“Alright then, we’ll see you in the morning,” Symphorian quickly said before disappearing out the door.
“Good night fellows,” Pancratius quickly followed. A few minutes later, the lights were out, and a lone figure slithered away into the night.
. . . . . .
“What do you want me to do with the professor’s book bag?” asked Dominic. He and Father Simon were gathering the last of the luggage to bring out to the carriage.
“Elijah said to leave that on his bed for now, he might need it when he comes back,” replied Father Simon. The two walked out the door, and nearly bumped into Elijah. “Why, perfect timing, we’ve got the last of the things. Your book bag is still on your bed, like you asked. We’ll meet you at the carriage,” said Father Simon.
“Good, I’ll be out in a bit,” replied Elijah, rushing into the room. Dominic and Father Simon noticed the grim look on Elijah’s face but said nothing as they continued on to the carriage where Pancratius and Symphorian were loading everything.
“Where’s . . . oh, hey Lionel, why do you have another horse?” asked Dominic noticing the servant coming around the corner of the inn with a brown stallion.
“This is for Elijah,” replied Lionel.
“Why is this for him?” asked Pancratius.
“He didn’t say, he just told me to have a horse ready for him,” replied Lionel. The four glanced at each other, then went back to loading the carriage. A few minutes later, Elijah came rushing out of the inn, his book bag strapped across his shoulder and a package with an envelope on top in his hands.
“I will buy you some time. Nic, your little hunch in the vineyard was correct, and things are more dire than I imagined. Make sure this gets to the King,” said Elijah, handing Dominic the package and envelope. “You may read it, but be prepared and steady yourself, for the news I send to the King is dark indeed. The package is for the King’s eyes only. Now get going.” He pushed the three teens into the carriage, then turned to Father Simon. “You make sure those boys get back home safe and sound. I will lead Jezebel on a little chase, when I’m sure you’ve have a good enough of a head start, then I will follow you.”
“What happens if you are captured?” asked Father Simon.
“I will try to avoid capture, but if that does happen, find Elisio, he will know what to do. Goodbye, my friends, and good luck.” He pushed Father Simon into the carriage, waved to them, got on the stallion, and galloped off. Lionel jumped onto the driver’s seat and drove away in the other direction. The four seated within were as still as statues until the walls of the city were quite a ways behind them.
“Are you going to read it?” asked Symphorian. Dominic glanced at the envelope atop the package sitting next to him, then opened it and took out several sheets of paper. His eyes widened as he read the pages, then passed them to Father Simon. Pancratius and Symphorian soon got and read them.
“Whoa, this is not good.”
“Not good at all.”
“Dark indeed.”
“All the more reason why we should hasten our return, the King needs to act quickly before this happens, or all is lost.”

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