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Once Upon 2021: Reclaiming Ryda - Chapter One



Chapter One


Crispin


Aside from home, never had a sight been so welcome as the gleaming towers of the Duke of Worthenave’s fortress in the early-morning sunlight. I viewed the sprawling multi-towered castle crowding the crag's upper heights above a picturesque town with a considerable measure of relief. The oasis of civilization would be sizable enough to offer provisions and a dry, warm place to sleep after a long journey. Most important of all, it promised a farrier to help the limping horse snuffing in my ear.

“Why do all the tops look so bright?” My recently acquired traveling companion, a lad by the name of Pip, squinted against the glare of the sun on the gold. “And why are they so shiny? They gold or something?”

“I read that the roofs were gilded with gold by a duke three generations back as a demonstration of wealth.”

Pip snorted. “Foolish use for gold.” He adjusted his share of the horse’s load as he started along the path to the trade road below.

“What purposes would you recommend instead?” I asked, partially out of curiosity and the rest because I hoped it would keep him chattering for a while. As Pip listed all the ways he would have used such a sum of money, most of them involving food, I returned to my musings.

My home in Areyuthia lay almost three months’ journey north and west from Worthenave. It was a long way to come for an answer to a genealogical question, but it was necessary. My father had sent me to find a proof of lineage that would determine the fate of the seven duchies of the northern wilds.

Tracing the family tree of the late, great Duke of Avalene, the last ruler to join the seven duchies under one rule, had proven harder than I anticipated. My quest had begun with an argument. It hadn’t even been mine. Russett, one of my eleven brothers, proclaimed that all the rulers of the duchies could trace their family line back to the great duke. Another brother had immediately denied such a claim. Hours later, they had come to me to settle it once and for all.

Three years later, I was still searching. However, for the first time, I had hope that I might find the final evidence hidden in the walled castle before us. Only if the Duke of Worthenave gave me leave to search for it.

“Will they let us in?” Pip leaped from rock to rock along the edge of the even surface of the trade road.

“To the city?” I frowned at him. “Why wouldn’t they? Do you have some horrible past that would make them bar you from entering their city?”

Pip laughed. “No! I am not some great thief.”