The first WEP challenge of the year is in honor of the book/movie of the same name: Gone With the Wind. In case you don’t know, this story follows a headstrong southern lady, Scarlet, and how she survived the American Civil War. The challenge was to adapt a theme from Gone With the Wind and adapt it to fit. Luckily, I already had this available.
Anyone who has read my first epic fantasy, The Treasures of Carmelidrium, available everywhere. (See sidebar links) May remember King Julian. He is pivotal in how my world developed. Well, at long last, I’m telling his story. You can find it on Kindle Vella, links below.
Since, in my view, everything is essential, I didn’t reduce the word count to 1,000. It sits at 1,277, including the title. I hope you enjoy it.
Tagline: Family Issues
King Julian of Gil-Lael
Marriage ContractKing Julian sat his white charger on top of the bluff that overlooked the valley and château de Panettiere, his brother-in-law’s estate. The reports of the conflict between Duke Victor Panettiere and Lord Ménard Balzac were greatly understated. Instead of fields of wheat, ready to harvest, the valley held tents, campfires, and men in arms as far as he could see.“Did you expect this, Papa?” Crown Prince Marcel asked.
“No,” Julian answered his seventeen-year-old son. He leaned forward a little to see his youngest son next to Marcel.
Turning back, he noted several men below hurry to mount their horses and gallop toward the pavilions of the three noblemen who wanted revenge, or so the report stated. Their flags announced them, and their men spread out on the field. Preparations for war were everywhere he looked.
The village of surfs directly below the bluff was burned, and the men and women were nowhere to be seen. He hoped they had fled and were safe, but when men grew angry, there was no telling what horrors might occur.
“What are your orders?” Friend-Brother Joël Chapelle asked.
“We make camp here. Select five men to accompany me to Balzac’s tent, along with you and Marcel.”
“What about me?” Prince Loïc asked.
“You will remain here.” Julian glanced at his fourteen-year-old son. He regretted bringing him. Marcel had to come since he was training to be king one day and must learn what it meant.
He heard the men give the orders behind him. The noise of horses, hammering, and the flapping of canvas in the wind all reached him. He didn’t turn his gaze from the scene below. Anger settled between his shoulders, making his muscles tense. His brother-in-law had always been impulsive, and it would seem his oldest son was the same. Julian would need to tread carefully, or he’d find himself in the center of a civil war. The entire thing was unacceptable.
Joël returned, and Julian pulled his stallion away from the men, beckoning his best friend to come with him. Once far enough from the others, Julian turned his horse alongside Joël’s so they might look at one another.
“The report said there was a disagreement,” Julian said. “This is more like war.”
“Indeed it is,” Joël said.
“I only brought five hundred men, I’ll need more if conflict ensues.”
“Who should I send?”
“No one just yet. I want to speak to those three men who dare to call to arms against my brother-in-law.”
“Isn’t this a dispute over a marriage agreement?”
Julian frowned. “Oui, no marriage contract should result in such conflict.”
“It seems extreme that such a call to arms would issue over a woman.” Joël rubbed the tip of his nose.
“We shouldn’t judge without hearing the facts,” Julian said. “Do you have the five men?”
“Then let us progress.”
A road connected the top of the bluff to the valley. Julian’s banner carrier took the lead, holding up the flag of the kings of Gil-Lael. A great oak, with three falcons in flight above it and three stars above those on a blue flag. They broke into a gallop once they reached the valley. The horse’s hooves pounded the dry earth. The wind snapped the banner. Two guards in the front behind the banner carrier and two in the rear. Men lined the drive and bowed to Julian as he passed. Marcel rode behind him, and Joël behind the young prince.
Smoke from the fires assaulted Julian, and the body odor from a thousand men was sour on his tongue. As he looked at the men, he saw many with injuries, bandaged arms, legs, and torsos. There had already been minor conflicts. He must end it.
They reached Lord Balzac’s large pavilion by midday. His farriers rushed forward to take the reins of their horses. Julian dismounted, his son and friend-brother joined him, and Balzac stepped forward to bow. Beside him came the two other noblemen, Lord Dufresne and Toutain.
“Welcome, Majesté,” all three said in unison.
“You must be tired after such a long journey,” Balzac said. “I have wine, cheese, and bread. So come inside and eat with us.”
“Thank you, My Lord, for a welcome respite.” Julian set his hand on his son’s shoulder and followed the three noblemen into the tent.
A large table with three chairs held the food and wine.
“Please sit, Majesté,” Balzac said with a wave of his arm. He signaled a servant who soon returned with three more chairs. Julian’s guards stood at attention close by.
After downing a goblet of wine to quench his thirst, Julian took a square of cheese and bit into it. The three nobles before him looked haggard as if they’d been without sleep for a long time. All three needed a bath. Dried mud and horse hair were caked to their clothes and hands. A scented oil lamp hung from one of the poles but could do little against the smell of manure and perspiration.
Julian cleared his throat. “The report mentioned this as a dispute over the marriage contract between Master Cyril, Panettiere’s oldest son, and your daughter, Balzac. Is the contract not suitable? Did your daughter displease Cyril, or was it the other way around?”
Balzac looked at his friends, and for a moment, no one spoke. Then he turned toward Julian, took a long swallow from his goblet, and began. “My sweet Auriane has been betrothed to Cyril since the age of ten. But she met a young man while visiting her cousin and fell in love. So she sought to leave the contract to marry him instead of Cyril.”
“Was that acceptable with you?” Julian broke the bread apart and took a bite.
“I wanted her to fulfill the marriage agreement with Panettiere since it would have elevated her to a duchess and given me a much-needed tax break. But she begged me, and…well, my love for her persuaded me that she should have what she wanted.”
“A tax break?”
“Oui, instead of the thirty percent I pay now, it would have been fifteen.”
Julian frowned. He’d given Panettiere a position to collect the taxes due him from this part of Gil-Lael. Ten percent for himself and five percent for his brother-in-law. It would seem Panettiere was overreaching at thirty percent. His anger began a low burn, but he didn’t indicate this to the three nobles.
“What did Panettiere receive with this agreement?”
”Our family goes back many generations here in the southern part of Gil-Lael. I offered an old estate that we no longer use.”
“So, your daughter fell in love and wished to marry another. You annulled the agreement?”
“I take it Panettiere was displeased. Is there anything else?”
Tears formed in Balzac’s eyes. He looked at his friends as they studied the floor. Julian could feel the change in the atmosphere. There was a tremendous sorrow that fell over the three noblemen before him.
Looking back at Julian, Balzac said, “Panettiere didn’t mind, but his son was angry. He stormed out of the meeting and…and.” Balzac’s shoulders began to shake. He grabbed a cloth and pressed it to his eyes. A low howl left his lips, and he began to cry. It was Lord Toutain who continued.
“Cyril, along with his two brothers and his friends rode out, hunted down Auriane, beat and murdered the young man she wished to marry before her eyes, and then took turns raping her. The Good Sisters took care of her, but heartsick, she took her own life a few days later.”
Word count: 1277
Holy smokes! I hope that left you curious for more. Currently, Kindle Vella is only offered in the USA. I encourage all of you to write to Vella, and if you aren’t eligible, contact Amazon and express a desire to write to Vella. I am making enough money to cover the cost of advertising.
The first 3 episodes are free. You just read episode 1. If you’re new to Vella, Amazon will give you 200 tokens so you can pay to read more. If you have an e-reader, the story will automatically download if registered with Amazon. If you read on your computer and don’t have an e-reader, it won’t.
I also have a sweet romance available. 5 Friends & Lovers.