They crept silently into each tent. The Whispering Merchant had sent them to awaken each king. The Merchant had bought time yesterday by requesting a meeting at noon the next day. Each King had agreed, not knowing what they were in store for. They both awoke to a masked figure sitting in their tents.
The Merchant’s men wore the ‘Merchant’ families’ trademark dark blue colors over their white armor. Each held an orange hilted sword in their hands. The Kings almost ordered the figure in their tent eliminated, until they remembered the stories of the Merchant’s warriors.
It was said they could kill a man while sitting on the ground. Neither royal wanted to know whether or not this was true. “I have tidings from the Merchant. You have angered our family, insulted us, and dishonored our agreements. At noon, your soldiers will face great challenges, unless you appease at the meeting. Meet the Merchant in the blue tent near the water’s edge in an hour, if you want to live.”
Almost as quickly as they had entered, they had left. Each King was shaken, they didn’t want to fight this way. In an hour, they rode to the blue tent that had went up in the night. It was lined, inside and out, with white armored, navy clad warriors, with orange hilted swords.
The King of England spoke first. “Defend yourself Merchant! I have kept my agreement, I suspect so has my cousin the King of France.” The King of France nodded. “His majesty is right, we are both honorable this day.” Then the figure in the middle of the tent laughed.
“The threat of death has brought you both, and the fear of it has reminded you of your connection. Two of three cousins want peace, but the one that matters is the silent one in the room. The Heir Of Alan is also in this tent, and he has convinced me that it is time for an adjustment.”
They were both alarmed now, which is exactly where the ‘Merchant’ wanted them. “Imagine my forces and his soldiers, not to mention all of your unhappy countrymen. What a war that would make, are you each prepared for it?” The two young kings started to draw their swords, only to be surrounded by warriors.
“I would think without your tempers. If I wanted your heads, I would have them. You have both walked into a trap that your fathers would have refused. It shows your youth, and your naivety.” The English king answered angrily. “We didn’t respond blindly, our best soldiers stand beside us, and more are near awaiting our signals.”
“You’ve witnessed my warriors’ ability this morning. Do you think you would live to give the signal?” The King Of France grit his teeth. “What do you want then? A ransom?” The Merchant smiled. “We will take 100 pounds of gold from you both. With it, you each buy peace, and to show your goodwill, you both give up the Princess. My price is the gold, Alan’s price is the hand of the King’s sister.”
The two kings stepped to a corner, a quick truce was formed between them. The price was agreed upon, and they rode off together. No one moved for an hour, until The Merchant’s spies confirmed that the Kings had broken camp.
Sir Robert removed the patches over his eyes, and the wig. Henri, the Princess, Giuseppe, and Ethan removed their helmets. Giuseppe had been the intruder in the English king’s tent, Princess Laurel had been the one in her brother’s tent. Sir Robert and Henri had both secured their entrance with some sleeping powder smoked into the tent hours earlier.
The groggy kings, and their servants were too drugged to attack. “How did you know they would show up?” Ethan asked. “I know my King, Laurel and Henri knew her brother. We attacked their pride, and then chided them with it.” Sir Robert responded.
“Oui, ‘your fathers wouldn’t have made the mistake’ secured it. Still, we had to keep them from getting too angry.” Henri added. “If they had, the two would have fought in spite of the odds. They played them well. What was the part over my hand?” Laurel questioned.
Sir Robert smiled. “Your Highness, I am happily married to a lady that I plan on seeing as soon as I leave here. However, I happen to know an Italian merchant, who sells hats, that needs a partner.” Laurel hugged Sir Robert. “You bought my freedom, thank you!”
Giuseppe shook Sir Robert’s hand. “How can we thank you?” “You can thank me by falling in love, by marrying this young cousin of mine, and producing many children.” They had done just that, and were as happy today as on that day.
The two soldiers of their kings, had each returned half the gold to their country’s coffers. The rest repaired villages, Churches, and fed hungry people in each country.
You’ll notice that neither King is mentioned by name in this story, you’ll also notice that at the start Ethan referred to the fact that Laurel’s father was the king, and not her brother. The reasons are quite simple, they also were part of my one mistake as an agent of Alan.
You see, my name is Ethan, and I have shared this story with you. I was one of two confederates in the camp of Sir Robert. My orders were to protect the Hatmaker at any cost. I never lied to my friend, I just didn’t share the news.
This story is written in my journal, all names, including my own are altered. Still, I promised Sir Robert and Henri, not to give a hint to the identity of either king. Each went on to rule well, and kindly. They learned from their mistakes, so we will not risk their reputations here.
The other confederate was Laurel’s father, who was supposed to be dead. Sir Robert had saved his life at Tréal. The king’s enemies had thought him dead. He was content to continue the charade, if it bought his family safety. While not privy to the secret of Alan, he had secured Sir Robert’s help.
The former king did not want his daughter to marry for any reason other than love. So through Sir Robert’s aid, I was selected as matchmaker/bodyguard. The two of them only learned the truth shortly before saving my neck from hanging. That however is a tale for another time, or you might say, another feather in the cap of The Italian Hatmaker.