The Baron’s Prize

Chapter 2: Warning the King

Notes:

What happens at the palace could not have been avoided and there was nothing Jensen could do about it,

The boat landed on a rocky piece of the Saven coastline. The man carried a small bag as he exited the smuggler’s vessel. Turning, he slipped a purse with gold coins into the waiting hand.

“You saw no one,” came a whisper

“Aye, Sir. Just came in late from a bit of fishing.”

Jensen smiled softly and turned to walk up the coastline towards a road that would head inland. His father kept a few horses stabled at the nearest village, and he had a two mile walk before he would reach it.

+++++

Two days later, the younger son of Duke Alan Ackles rode into the stable yard behind his father’s house in the capital. He dismounted and handed the reins to one of the handlers.

Ackles removed his bag from its position on the horse and walked towards the rear entrance. Turning the latch, he found it unlocked. Several servants were seated around the table in the kitchen, eating lunch.

“Master Jensen,” the butler exclaimed. “We were not notified of your return.”

“Before you start making preparations of any kind, let me tell you what I need. I have no idea if I will be staying.”

“Have you eaten, Lad,” asked the cook.

“No, if you could bring something to the office, I’ll be in there. I will need someone to deliver a missive for me.”

The cook hurried to prepare a plate, and one of the maids went to light some candles in the office. Jensen gave an exhausted half smile and refused to give his bag to a footman.

+++++

Two hours later a man arrived from the palace and was given entrance to the library where the Duke’s youngest son sat in the quietness of the dimly lit room.

“Jensen Ackles?”

“Yes, do you have a message for me?”

“The king has granted you an audience; you are to come alone.”

“When?”

“Now.”

“I will return with you then,” the young man stated.

The exhausted man followed the king’s messenger out of his father’s house and entered a carriage.

+++++

Jensen walked into the palace, frowning at all the luxury he saw there. The people in the city were starving because taxation was high, and jobs were unavailable. The king lived like this! He barely shook his head, disgust marred his features.

The chamberlain approached and asked him to follow. The young man’s eyebrows rose as they mounted the stairs and headed towards the king’s private chambers.

Entering the suite, he saw several of the royal advisors, including Sir Mark Sheppard. He frowned. No one knew the reason for his annulment from his marriage to the man’s daughter, Sarah. It could ruin his name if it came out.
King Sebastian was seated at the head of the table with the five advisors on either side.

“Jensen! It is good to see you. I have heard so many interesting stories about you – both home and abroad. Sit down. Why have you returned so early?”

Ackles remained standing. “I was found out. Padalecki returned without notice.”

“What did you find out about Morgan’s plans?”

“He’s planning an invasion,” he replied.

“I highly doubt that,” Sheppard sneered. “My people claim he’s settled on his estate.”

“I was with him five days ago. He’s on the coast and gathering his armies. I’ve seen the maps and heard some of the plans. His spies claim he will be welcomed with very little resistance from the people.”

The silence in the room was broken by the king’s laughter. Jensen’s eyes widened.

“I have two reports now – yours and my advisor’s. Given your history, whose should I accept?”

“My history, your majesty?”

Sebastian rose to his feet; his advisors followed. Turning to the five men, he asked them to leave.

Jensen stiffened and waited until the men left the chambers.

The king moved towards the young man, moving in close to him. “You will have to prove your loyalty to me, Jensen,” the older man whispered as he leaned in to kiss his spy.

Ackles froze and allowed the lips to touch his; panic filled him. Something snapped, and he shoved the king away from him.

Anger appeared on the king’s face, and he snarled at the younger man, “I know what you are, Jensen Ackles. Sheppard informed me that his daughter was still a virgin when they filed for an annulment with the church. I was told of the scars on your back from where your father had you beaten when you were found in the orchards with a vagabond. I believe he had the man beaten to death. Now, to protect your good name, you will service me or I’ll have men hold you down while I take you.”

“I am sure the Archbiship will be told of this if you do not let me leave now.”

The king walked toward his door and opened it, calling for his guards.

+++++

Three hours later, Jensen left the king’s chambers. His face was bleeding, and he had bruises. The chamberlain met him to lead him out of the palace and noticed that the young man walked slowly, as if in pain, and he frowned in displeasure. The king could be a cruel leader.

“Do you need to see a physician, Sir?”

“I just want to leave the dust of this city in my wake,” came the angry, bitter response.

+++++

Two hours later, Jensen was on a fresh horse and headed north toward Avenleigh. It would take him three days to get there.
i
As he left the city, he worried about the future because Morgan was coming. His family, until today, were royalists. He could not tell his father what had happened. It would only make things worse for him since he needed his father’s permission to safeguard the estate.

Later that evening, he stopped at an inn, paid for a room, a hot bath, and a meal. Going upstairs, he grimaced with every step. His only thought was ‘At least I fought back.’

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