This is a chapter at the beginning of Elemental Worlds. At least, it was going to be the first chapter, but I decided to eliminate it. It tells how Pettic, the son of a farmer, came to be the friend and companion of Crown Prince Torren of Pondoria.
Later on, Pettic needs to put his own life in danger when the prince is kidnapped.
Pettic woke up early. It was still dark, but he could hear his mother moving around in the downstairs room. Today they would have to get their chores done early. Today they were going to take the two day journey to the capital city of Ponderia.
Pettic had never been to Glitton. In fact he had never been further than a half day’s journey from the farm his parents owned. This journey was to celebrate his thirteenth birthday.
He poked his little brother in the ribs. ‘Derkil, get up. We need to do our jobs quickly. Don’t forget today is the day we’re going to Glitton.’
Eleven-year-old Derkil rolled over and opened his eyes, then closed them and rolled back.
‘Derkil, come on, get up!’
At that, Derkil opened his eyes wide and laughed. ‘Did you think I’d forget, Pettic? I’ve not been to Glitton either, remember.’
With that, the younger boy jumped up and dressed quickly. The two boys climbed down the ladder leading from their loft bedroom into the main room of the cottage.
Their mother was preparing breakfast and packing a large hamper to take with them. ‘Come on, boys,’ she exclaimed when she saw them. ‘Go and get your jobs done. Your father’s milking the cows today, so I can pack the food we’re taking, but the chickens need feeding, the sheep watering and checking over, the dogs and cats fed and the horse harnessed to the wagon.’
Their father, Brimar, was pulling down hay for the two cows to eat while they were being milked when the boys appeared. ‘Get on as quickly as you can, lads,’ he called. ‘I want to be on the way as soon after sunrise as possible.’
‘When will Yelldon be coming?’ Pettic asked.
Yelldon was a neighbour who had handed over the running of the family farm to his son the previou year. He was still an active man, though, and agreed to look after the farm while the family were away.
‘At dawn, he said,’ replied Pettic’s father. ‘I want to be ready to leave as soon as I’ve told him what’s what.’
The two boys ran to their tasks and finished before the sun poked its head over the horizon. Yelldon arrived soon afterwards. Being an experienced farmer, he did not need much instruction. It was more a case of telling him where things were.
‘Are you ready Helra?’ the boy’s father called impatiently to their mother. Pettic could swear his parents were as excited as he was about the coming visit.
Helra came out brushing a lock of her long chestnut hair from her eyes. ‘Just making sure everything is left tidy.’ She climbed onto the wagon to sit next to her husband on the driver’s seat and they trotted out of the farmyard about half an hour after Yelldon had arrived.
They drove through through familiar land for the first half-day until they reached the village of Prind. The land around was fertile and quite flat and much was produced. Here they came each week to the market to sell any surplus produce and buy things they did not produce themselves. People came from the towns around too and not only produce was exchanged, but news too.
They called in at the local tavern and bought some lunch and exchanged comments with the various friends and acquaintances gathered there before continuing onwards.
The boys found this second part of the journey much more exciting, and, truth to tell so did the adults the adults. The land began to rise into rolling downland as they left the plains behind. Here the farming was predominantly sheep. As it was summer, the spring lambs were growing quickly and many had been rounded up to go to the markets.
The first day ended with the family approaching the town of Clind Row. This town seemed like a huge metropolis to the boys who had never before seen anywhere bigger than their village. In fact, it was quite a small town.
They found an inn for the night and as soon as Brimar ensured their horse was well stabled, the family went into the inn and had a hot meal. Brimar struck up a conversation with one of the locals and stayed down drinking ale, but Helra and the boys went up to their room. Pettic wanted to stay down with his father, but Helra had insisted he was still too young, thirteen in two days or not.
The next day was much the same as the previous one, except they ate the food Helra had packed rather than eat in inns or taverns.
About an hour before sunset, a city appeared over the horizon.
‘Is that Glitton?’ asked Pettic.
‘Yes, that’s the capital city,’ replied Brimar. ‘That is unless I’ve taken the wrong road somewhere,’ He winked at his wife.
‘Oh, no,’ wailed Dirkil. ‘Could you have done that? What happens if it’s the wrong place?’
‘Stop teasing the boys,’ scolded Helra with a smile. She turned to Dirkil. ‘Yes, it’s Glitton.
There is only one road to the capital. Even your father can’t get that wrong.’
Brimar aimed a friendly punch at his wife who ducked, laughing.
The little party soon passed through the gates of the capital city. All four of them looked around in wonder. Here the houses were built of stone and looked huge to the country folk. The roads, too, were paved and not the muddy tracks they had known in the villages around their farm. There were churches with tall spires or towers that looked as if they were trying to reach the heavens, so tall did they seem.
They found an inn and asked if they had rooms, but were told all were taken due to something called “The Proclamation”.
The innkeeper sent them off down a side road to a smaller inn. ‘It’s clean and does good food, but it’s not so fashionable as this one, although I say it myself. They may have space for a family if you don’t mind sharing a room.’
That turned out to be the case they booked the room for a week and unloaded their things. A groom took their wagon into the coach-house and their horse to the stables. Brimar was secretly glad the other inn was full. This inn was, as they had been told, small, but it was clean and the landlord friendly. It was also cheaper than the other one, an important consideration for the country folk.
They ordered a meal and this time took it in their room. They were all tired after travelling and so they went to bed early. Being used to going to bed with the sun and rising with it too, it was no hardship.
The next morning, Helra told the boys to put on their best clothes. She had insisted they were going to the big city, home to the king, and so they should look their best.
Dirkil protested. ‘But mother, it’s not as though the king or anyone important will see us. My best clothes are so-o uncomfortable.’
Helra insisted, however, and as usual she got her way.
Shortly after they had eaten, and Helra had inspected the boys (and incidentally, her husband too) they set off to look at the city. It was huge. No one in the family had ever been in such a big place. It was busy too, and noisy. On every street corner, it seemed, there was someone selling something. Flowers here, sweetmeats there, pies too. They entered a square where a market was in full swing. The stall-holders cried their wares, calling to passers-by to look at what they had for sale. The scents of food and flowers filled the air. The boys wanted to stop and look at the wares, but their father hurried them on.
‘Why can’t we stop to look?’ asked Pettic.
‘We’ll look another time,’ replied Brimar. ‘We have a week here, after all. I thought we’d begin by looking at the palace. Today, I believe, they’ve opened it to the public because it’s the Prince’s thirteenth birthday.’
‘Just like you, Pettic,’ pointed out Dirkil.
‘Oh, I hadn’t noticed,’ replied his brother, sarcastically. ‘I thought we were here to see the king!’
They passed through some inner gates into the oldest part of the city. Here the houses were even bigger and the place looked tidy and well kept. The streets were clean and the windows of the houses were polished. Helra surreptitiously peeped into one of the windows as they passed.
‘It’s beautiful inside,’ she whispered.
They came to the palace gates and were admitted. After crossing a large courtyard with a variety of buildings in it, they arrived at the main doors and were ushered into a large hall. There were chairs in this hall as if there were going to be some kind of ceremony. The ceiling had flags hanging from it. Brimar told the boys they were the emblems of all the nobility and knights who would be called on to fight for their country in times of war. The ceiling itself had large wooden beams and the walls were covered with tapestries, mainly scenes of warfare and hunting.
Several families filled the room, all with at least one boy around Pettic’s age. Some sat on the chairs and some walked around looking at everything there was to see. Those on the chairs were looking bored as though they had seen it all before, which they may have done because they were all richly dressed. Their parents were talking quietly together as if they had known each other for a long time. These were obviously noble families, but what were they waiting for? That they were waiting for something was obvious.
After looking around at the tapestries, and Helra admiring the fine stitching, Brimar suggested they sit down ‘for a rest’.
Dirkil protested he did not want a rest. He was not tired. Why could they not go and look at somewhere else. They had seen this place now.
‘Your mother needs to sit down for a while,’ Brimar responded.
Pettic looked at his mother. She did not look in the least bit tired. What was his father up to? Anyway, he needed to go to pass water. He had been holding it in for quite a while now, and he was getting desperate. He whispered to his father who went to one of the guards standing around the room and asked.
‘Come with me, young man,’ the guard told Pettic, and walked off through a door on the opposite side of the room from where they had entered.
Pettic followed and the guuard took him down a number of corridors until they came to a door.
‘In there is the garderobe,’ said the guard. ‘I need to be in the Great Hall now and so I trust you can find your way back. If you get lost, just ask one of the servants. There are usually plenty around.’
With that, he walked off leaving Pettic in front of the garderobe door.
When he had finished, Pettic left the garderobe and started back towards the Great Hall. After a while he found he had become quite lost. He was just beginning to panic when he spotted a young boy of about his age at the end of the passage.
‘Hey,’ he called, ‘I’m lost. I need to get back to the Great Hall. Can you tell me which way to go, please?’
The boy stopped and looked round. He came down the corridor towards Pettic.
He was about the same height as Pettic but with dark hair whereas Pettic’s was fair. He had brown eyes and was wearing a dark blue jerkin over a maroon shirt. Pettic knew these were the royal colours so he assumed this boy was one of the royal attendants.
‘I can show you the way back. I’m not wanted for a while yet,’ the boy answered.
‘Thank you very much,’ Pettic said. ‘I suppose you work here. Are you some kind of page, doing your training?’
The boy smiled. ‘Yes. I am in training.What do you do?’
‘My father’s a farmer in a village two days’ drive away. We only have a small farm, but we do have two cows,’ He drew himself up a little as he said this. ‘Not many farmers have a cow. They get their milk from goats. My mother makes butter and cheese from the extra milk. It tastes different from goats’ cheese and butter.’
‘Yes, I know,’ the boy answered. ‘I’ve had cows’ cheese and milk. I prefer it to goats’.’
Pettic was pleased to meet someone who liked the cows’ milk and cheese. Most of his friends preferred the goats’ but that was mainly because that was what they were used to.
The pair chatted on as they wended their way back to the Great Hall. Pettic learned about life in the palace and the boy learned about Pettic’s life on the farm.
When they reached the door to the Great Hall the boy said, ‘It sounds a great life, living on a farm. So free. I loved the story you told about falling out of the tree you were climbing. I’m not allowed to climb trees.’
With that, he ran back the way he came and Pettic entered the great Hall once more.
His parents had been getting anxious about him and were pleased to see him back. He told them about getting lost and meeting the trainee page and how the boy had shown him back to the Hall.
‘I think we should tell him why we are here, don’t you, Brimar,’ Helra said suddenly.
Pettic looked at his mother and frowned. ‘We’re here for my birthday, aren’t we?’
‘Yes, dear, of course, but there’s something else too. Now I don’t expect it will come to anything, but the king sent out a proclamation a few weeks ago. Crown Prince Torren is thirteen today, just like you and all the other boys here today.’
Pettic frowned. His father continued. ‘The king sent a proclamation to ask if any boy with a birthday on the same day as the Prince would care to come to the palace today, then the prince would choose one of them to be his friend and companion. So here we are.’
Just then, the first of the boys was called and he stood and went through a door at the far end of the room.
‘Mother, Father,’ Pettic said. ‘This is ridiculous. You know one of the nobles’ sons will get it. We should go now before we’re embarrassed.’
‘No, son,’ Brimar insisted. ‘We’ve come this far and I don’t intend to leave until you’ve at least seen the prince. The king has said he’ll leave the interviewing and choice entirely to Prince Torren. It’s said the prince is not in the slightest snobbish and I think everyone here stands a chance.’
Pettic sighed. The boy who had been in to see the prince came out and another boy went in.
This went on for a while until Pettic’s name was called. He stood and looked at his parents for help. His mother gave him a little push and he crossed the room towards the little door feeling as if all eyes were on him. (Which of course they were.)
He entered a small room. There was a large table in the centre and a window behind it. Pettic bowed to the pair seated on the other side of the table. A voice he recognised bade him be seated.
He looked up eyes widening as he saw the boy he had been so casually talking to, and whom he had unceremoniously asked for help. He could hardly believe he had been in the presence of Prince Torren and not known it.
Next to the prince was a man that could only be the king. He was a tall man with the same dark hair and brown eyes as his son, but he sported a well-trimmed beard. He looked a kind man and he smiled at Pettic to give him courage.
Prince Torren also smiled at Pettic. ‘Well, Pettic, we meet again. I hope you won’t hold it against me for not telling you who I am. I’ve so little chance of talking to someone not of my family, who doesn’t treat me as different.’
‘N-no, Your Royal Highness.’
Prince Torren asked more questions about Pettic’s life on the farm. Pettic quickly relaxed and soon had both the prince and his father laughing at some of the tales he told. Eventually, though, Prince Torren told Pettic he had seen enough to make up his mind, and dismissed the other boy.
‘You were a long time in there,’ his mother said when he came across the hall to them. ‘I was wondering what was happening.’
Pettic smiled. ‘We were just talking, mother. Prince Torren is friendly. Did you know he showed me the way back from the garderobe when I got lost?’
‘What?,’ Dirkil said ‘You were talking to a real prince and didn’t know it? I’d have spotted him right off.’
‘I don’t think so. He looks normal and speaks normally too.’
It took a long time for all the boys to be interviewed. Derkin had been complaining for quite some time about being bored and Helra said she would take him out to look at the market. Thus it was that when the last boy came out, only a restless Pettic and his father were sitting waiting.
‘Why can’t we go and meet mother and Derkin, father?’ Pettic asked.’It’s not as if I’m likely to be chosen, is it? The prince’ll want someone from his own class as a companion.’
Brimar insisted they stay. They had come this far and they were not going to leave before they found out who the prince had chosen.
It was only about ten minutes after the last boy had come out that the prince and the king emerged from the little room. Everyone stood and bowed as the pair went to a platform next to the room where the interviews had been held. The king bade everyone to sit and took his place on the throne. Prince Torren stood next to his father, glanced once at him and then stepped forward.
‘I have made my decision,’ he began. ‘It was not an easy one. All of you had things to recommend you to me, but eventually I thought there is one of you I took to immediately.’ The prince paused and looked around the room. His eyes caught Pettic’s and held. ‘I would like to employ as my companion, and I hope my friend, Pettic.’
Pettic eyes scanned the room. There must be some mistake. There must be another Pettic here. But no, no one else was moving, and all eyes were on him.
The prince smiled and said, ‘Yes, Pettic, I’ve chosen you. Come up so everyone can see you.’
You can read about Pettic’s adventures in the four elemental worlds he has to enter in order to rescue his friend in The Stones of Earth and Air, then in The Stones of Fire and Water.
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Here is something about the book.
After the Crown Prince of Ponderia starts behaving strangely, his best friend Pettic discovers that the prince has been replaced by a doppelganger, and the real prince kidnapped.
Unable to accept the loss of his friend, Prince Torren, nor the cruel impostor to become the new king, Pettic sets on a quest to rescue his friend. After he sees the fake prince meet a mysterious man, Pettic discovers that the prince has been imprisoned in another plane of existence.
With the help of Blundo, the court magician, Pettic finds out that the only way to enter this other world are four keys, each of them associated with a different element. As Pettic sets on his seemingly impossible quest, he discovers that the four lands that hold the keys are all vastly different… and more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.#
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