Kingdoms & Promises

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

A Covenant and a Code

Hundreds of years ago, the mysterious Hill Folk went to war with the people of Remalna to defend their groves of colortrees, whose rich hues of blue and red and gold made them valuable for trade. The Hill Folk fought back with their all of their magical powers and easily defeated their foes. At last a truce was reached. The Remalnan settlers would cut no more wood, and in exchange the Hill Folk would give magical Fire Sticks to last them the winter.

The people of Remalna follow a Code of War which forbids any weapon that is not used in the hand or thrown by the hand. In this way killing at a distance is not possible, and any person wishing to take part in war put himself at considerable personal risk, which made wars in Remalna few and far between for centuries.

A Most Unlikely Countess

Growing up, Mel ran wild with the village children, never learning anything of the finer points of ladyhood. Lovely manners and embroidery did not interest Melaria, who preferred sword practice and riding cross-country through their land of Tlanth. If the castle's furnishings were reduced to rickety furniture and threadbare curtains, this only mattered to Mel because everyone around her also suffered under the cruel taxes imposed by King Galdran. When word came that the king planned to break the Covenant to line his pockets all the more, Mel was enraged. Surely, now there would be rebellion!

A Death Bed Promise

On a bitter cold day, her twin brother Branaric came to Mel. His usual smile had fled from his handsome face.
"Melaria, it's time to go see Papa."

The Count of Tlanth lay dying in a freezing tower room, windows thrown open so he could better hear the windharps of the Hill People mourning him.

"Remember, my children--although your mother chose to adopt into my family, she was a Calahanras--the last of the very finest royal house ever to rule Remalna. If she had wanted, she could have raised her banner, and half the kingdom would have risen, gladly, in her name. You two are half Calahanras. You have her wit, and her brains. You can take Remalna, and you will be better rulers than any Merindar ever was.
"Promise me," he said, struggling up on one elbow. His breath wheezed in and out, and his skin was blotchy with the effort, but his voice was strong. "Promise me!You will fight Galdran, protect Tlanth, and the Covenant."

Brother and sister agreed, but Branaric is a scholar, not a warrior. As for Melaria, her daring is great, but is she too young to lead a band of rebels to claim her crown?

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander

The young king Tamar was awakened in darkness by the sound of elephants in his courtyard. Their jeweled tusks and golden banners proclaimed them the property of a great maharajah. In short order, a dark figure strode into the palace and demanded an immediate audience.
Tamar sighed heavily.
As his tutor reminded him, the principles of Dharma--the code of honor, conscience, and the obligation to do what is royally virtuous, meant that he could not refuse an audience to another king, no matter the lateness of the hour.

Cover to The Iron RingThe mysterious visitor, King Jaya, ruled the distant land of Mahapura where, he grandly informed his host, all was much better than in Tamar's own kingdom of Sundari. Musicians, dancers, food, all were better in Mahapura, King Jaya purred. The only distraction he sought from Tamar was a simple game of aksha. Pure luck would determine the rolls of the dice.

In all hospitality, Tamar could not refuse, although the stakes Jaya proposed would have fed the court for a month. Die-roll after die-roll, Tamar won. Then the king of Mahapura yawned and made a final wager: "Life against life".
This time the dice seemed to jump from Tamar's fingers of their own accord.
"King of Sundari," Jaya said, "you have lost."
"Hear me; understand me well. I leave you now; I have other matters to deal with. But, from this moment, you are at my command. You will go to my palace in Mahapura and there make good on your debt. Vow to do so without fail. Tamar stood and looked squarely at Jaya. "You have my word as king and kshatriya."

Jaya placed an iron ring on Tamur's finger.
"The emblem of your pledge," Jaya said. "Your life is my property."

Tamar awoke surrounded by his counselors and attendants, all wearing night robes. His shouting had summoned them. No one remembered a visit from a king named Jaya, and all advised Tamar to forget his dream, which he might well have done were he not wearing an iron ring.

Despite his people's pleadings, Tamar rode out immediately to faraway Mahapura. In his travels, he is joined by fantastic creatures, wise counselors, and, yes, his true love. The story of The Iron Ring is woven from threads of ancient Indian literature, and its graceful story is told with much action and humor.