Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Seven

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Seven

~~~~~~~~~~

After an uneventful breakfast where little was said about their upcoming visit to the folly, Princess Aydreanna then addressed her escort officers informing them she was going to show Jonathan and Sammy the folly, and that she’d return when they’d finished playing.  It was Jonathan’s impression that the officers were none too pleased with her plans, but knew better than to question her intentions.  With that, she led Jonathan and Sammy through a corridor past Castle Aberyst’s kitchen complex, where they entered a small outside courtyard heading towards a rear gate in the castle’s inner wall.  With a friendly wave of her hand to the guards in the tower the heavy iron gate was raised, and the massive oak doors opened outwards towards a snow covered parkland dotted with ancient oak trees.

“We’re still within the grounds of Castle Aberyst, Jonathan,” explained Princess Aydreanna as they walked along a pea gravel path covered in a couple of inches of snow.  The skies were a beautiful clear blue overhead as the sun crested the eastern horizon, causing the winter wonderland before them to sparkle and glisten.  “You’re the first person I’ve ever taken with me to visit the folly, Jonathan, so consider yourself to be very special indeed!”

“I do, Princess Aydreanna, I’m excited to see it and I’m sure Sammy will like it,too.  I do have one question though, now that we’re alone.  Why are you always escorted by those two officers everywhere you go, and why don’t they follow you to the folly?”

They continued walking and listening to the sounds of snow crunching underfoot towards the small rise of a hill before them, before she replied to Jonathan saying, “My father decreed that I would never be alone until I turned eighteen, and even then, I’m not sure he’d ever allow me to go anywhere by myself.  He’s so overprotective of me.  I always have to be with either my parents or my escorts – the only places I can be alone are in my room and at the folly.”

Pausing for a moment she then added, “Now before we continue on, I have to blindfold you in order to keep the surprise until the very last minute.  So wait just a moment, as I’ve got a cloth with me to tie over your eyes.  You have to promise me you can’t see anything, and won’t peek until I say to take it off.”

After she tied the cloth securely over his eyes Jonathan replied, “I can’t see anything, Princess Aydreanna, and I won’t peek, but don’t let me walk into a tree as I can’t see where I’m going,”  He then added, “Why don’t you need an escort to visit the folly then?”

“Here, I’ll take your hand so you won’t stumble into a tree,” she answered, while resuming their walk guiding Jonathan down the pea gravel pathway.  “My father started building the folly for me when I was just a young girl, and I insisted after he first showed it to me, that I’d never visit it again unless I could go there by myself.  It was a real fight between us, but I didn’t budge, and finally my father relented and allowed me this one indulgence.  You see, the folly is the one place where I can be myself, where I don’t have to be a princess always on display.  A place where I can play and pretend like any child, and let my imagination run wild, without worrying about being prim and proper.  It’s too much at times trying to be a perfect princess.”

“I can understand that, Princess Aydreanna, I really can.  My favorite times are when Sammy and I are adventuring on the farm and exploring the fields and woods.  I wouldn’t be happy always having to be on my best behavior and all proper like,” said Jonathan while being led by the hand by the princess.  “I actually feel sorry for you, for not being able to go on adventures.  I don’t know what Sammy and I would do if we couldn’t explore on our own around the farm.”

Sammy had been content to stay nearby up until that point, when a squirrel gathering nuts in the snow caught his attention.  He then dashed across the snow covered grass in hot pursuit, as the squirrel quickly scrambled up a mighty oak.  “When we’re at the folly, Jonathan, please just call me Aydreanna,” continued the princess.  “I do love being a princess, and I love my parents, the kingdom and all it’s people very much – but I need time to play and have fun like any other child.  I told my father that it was my right, and he was sensible enough to understand and agree with me.”

Princess Aydreanna then said, “Here’s where we’ll stop, Jonathan, as we’ve come to the top of this small hill.  In front of us, you’ll see the castle’s outer wall beyond a small valley not so far away.  A stream runs through the valley and beside it in a meadow sits the folly.  Are you ready to see it?”

Jonathan replied, “Yes, I’m ready to see it, Aydreanna,” and then she carefully untied the cloth behind his head and let it drop from his eyes…

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Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Six

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

“What’s a folly, Princess Aydreanna?  I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” replied Jonathan trying to take in what he had just heard her say.  It almost seemed to him that she was expressing disappointment, because she wasn’t free to do what she wanted.  ‘How could that be?’ he thought, ‘She’s a princess after all, and lives a charmed life in a castle.  How could she be unhappy about not being able to go on adventures, and what was this folly she spoke of, and her need to escape into her imagination?’

The other thing Jonathan noticed, was how she uncharacteristically replied to him in a quiet voice, speaking down towards where Sammy was quietly eating on the floor between them – as if not wanting to be overheard – but by whom, her uniformed escorts?  He’d have to get to the bottom of this, and see what she meant.  As these thoughts swirled around in his mind, Princess Aydreanna then answered his question in her normal voice again while sitting upright in her chair saying, “You’ve never heard of a folly before, Jonathan?  Then I’ll have to show you, but I’ll keep it as a surprise and not tell you now.  What I can tell you though, is it’s bigger than a breadbox and smaller than Castle Aberyst, so that should give you plenty of guesses!”

Once her giggles subsided knowing that Jonathan would never guess what a folly was on his own, she continued, “We have an appointment tomorrow morning after breakfast to go see my father’s folly – Sammy, too.  In fact, I should think that Sammy will like it just as much as you will.  It’s my favorite place to go on my own, as my father gave me permission to go there without an escort.  It’s a place where I can just go to play, and let my imagination carry me away.”

“That’ll be fun, Princes Aydreanna, we look forward to seeing it with you tomorrow morning!” replied Jonathan, not saying what was on the tip of his tongue.  He wanted to know more about her always having two officers as escorts wherever she went, and how she gets to go to the folly without them.  ‘This folly, whatever it was, must be pretty special indeed,’ thought Jonathan, ‘if it caused her this much excitement and was something she wanted to show him.’  At the same time though, he had a feeling it was something her escorts frowned upon, as apparently she would be out of their sight and supervision.  Immediately, he realized they’d have to be very careful of what they said and did, and the topic of going on adventures wasn’t something that should ever be overheard by anyone but the three of them – Sammy wouldn’t tell anyone, of course.

The rest of the dinner and conversation were carried on for public consumption, as her uniformed escorts engaged the princess with a number of broader subjects, such as, plans for her parents’ arrival, administrative actions concerning the castle, and a weather forecast of continued snow and chilling winds overnight.  At one point, Princess Aydreanna’s eyes met Jonathan’s, and he noted a plea in her look for the formalities of the dinner to quickly be over, but of course, she stayed on until the end.  Apparently she felt that this was not the time or place to ask him more questions about adventures or his life in Ohio, and he hoped they’d be free to discuss such topics once she showed him the folly.

The only thing that came to mind when Jonathan pondered what a folly might be, was that it must somehow be a joke, but he knew if this folly was important to her it wouldn’t be a joke at all.  In fact, if it was a place where she could escape into her imagination, then it must be a very special place indeed.  Jonathan knew that the fields and forests of the Spencer Family Farm allowed him and Sammy to escape into their imaginations, so it must be something like a playroom within the castle, or a corner of the garden.  As it was, he couldn’t wait to find out what the folly would be, and his dreams that night were of getting lost inside a giant maze and never finding his way out…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Five

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

Jonathan was fascinated with Castle Aberyst’s intricately carved stonework, as he and Sammy accompanied their staff escort from the guest quarters to the main banquet hall.  They followed narrow passageways lined with candles in wall sconces, down spiral staircases enclosed within circular stone towers, and were finally led onto a grand balcony that opened to a pair of carved staircases on either side of the balcony leading down to the great hall which served as a banquet room.  There were three long tables in parallel running the length of the hall that looked to each sit at least 50 people comfortably, and at the end of the hall perpendicular to the three long tables was the head table for Princess Aydreanna and her invited guests.

King Abersoch and Queen Arvanna were expected to return any day now from the Harlech Conference, as the sea ice had already begun moving into the Sea of Harlech, which necessitated their return sooner rather than later.  Jonathan and Sammy were shown to their places by their escort, with Jonathan’s place to the right of where the princess would sit, while Sammy had a place of honor reserved on the floor between them where two empty bowls were awaiting him.  Everyone in the great hall stood alongside their seating arrangements until Princess Aydreanna entered, accompanied by the same two uniformed officers who had been beside her at the Royal Dock when the Wrexham arrived.

Once the princess was seated at the head table, there were a number of toasts initiated by the uniformed officers to the left of the princess and those seated at the heads of the three long banquet tables, before everyone took their seats.  It appeared to Jonathan that most of the castle staff and personnel were seated in the great hall for dinner, although he was sure there must still be quite a few people remaining behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of the dinner and the rest of the castle.  Besides the two officers, the banquet hall took on the feel of a large family reunion, with a pleasant familial atmosphere of people who knew each other very well.

Sammy was then served his meal of chopped venison, gravy and water in his two bowls, while plates of venison, boiled potatoes and assorted vegetables with a rich, brown gravy were served to everyone seated in the hall – along with either tankards of ale, goblets of wine or sparkling water. Princess Aydreanna then began the conversation by asking Jonathan, “How is it, Jonathan, that you’ve traveled to our world from your own Southern Ohio?  I’d very much like to know how this is done, for it is unheard of in our world.”

“Well, it’s hard to explain exactly, Princess Aydreanna, because to describe how to do it is one thing, but to actually travel between worlds is quite another.  My Grandfather Spencer was the first to do it, and he’s actually made new worlds, but I haven’t done that yet.  He says the process is to focus your thoughts on where you want to go, until you have this sensation of floating, and then simply release your thoughts to travel beyond your mind.  He says it only takes a few seconds to escape to new worlds when he does it, but for me it’s different.”

“In what way is it different, Jonathan, I’d like to know from your first hand experience.”

“Well, for me it’s more like daydreaming.  I let my mind wander in pleasant thoughts of adventuring somewhere, and it just seems the next thing I know, I’m in the middle of that adventure and end up in a different world.  It just happens that way.  I’ve been to the Land of Myllanthar and back twice now, and this is my third trip to this world.  Sammy’s been back and forth three times now, and this is his fourth visit.  We never know when we’re leaving Ohio and arriving here, or when we’ll go back – each time it’s just happened – and it’s like we were never gone, as it’s the same time back home as it was before leaving.  This is my first visit to the Kingdom of Arwyall though, and it feels good here, like home somehow.”

Princess Aydreanna pondered Jonathan’s responses, and thought carefully before saying quietly so only he could hear her, “I would very much like to go on an adventure like that one day, Jonathan.  My only opportunity to do such things is to visit my father’s folly, where I go to escape into my imagination…”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Four

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

‘It was a most interesting idea,’ thought Jonathan, ‘the concept of living in two different worlds.’  Of course, the very notion appealed to him, as he both loved the farm and the opportunity to live in this fanciful world of castles and kingdoms – but it wasn’t a game or indulgence, as these were real people and places, with so much at stake.  The difference was, it wasn’t Hampton, Ohio, and because of that it offered him a chance to explore and adventure in a way that the fields and woods of Southern Ohio could never give him.  However, it started to dawn on Jonathan, that there was more to this duality than just adventuring.  Sure, it gave him the opportunity to live in parallel worlds – if he was indeed able to do it – but there was more than that.  It was a feeling within him that somehow he felt he belonged here, in this Kingdom of Arwyall, even though he had only just arrived.

Sometimes in life, we’re drawn to people and places in ways we don’t initially understand, and this was one such moment for Jonathan.  From the moment he first glimpsed Princess Aydreanna from the deck of the Wrexham as it maneuvered for docking, there was a connection he felt that he couldn’t explain.  Maybe it was because he was an only child, and never had a sister he could share his world with.  Perhaps it was because he filled his hours with make believe and adventuring on the Spencer Family Farm, searching for something he didn’t know know was missing from his life.  Whatever the reason, Jonathan in that moment thought he was home, in a figurative sense, despite knowing that his literal home was in Hampton, Ohio, with his family.

It was a confusing idea though at the same time, as he had never experienced such a sensation before, and didn’t know quite what to make of it.  Captain Amlwch’s description of the princess was interesting in what it said, and didn’t say, as he’d described her saying, “Princess Aydreanna is quite capable in her own rights though, Jonathan, for she often ventures into the kingdom to represent the king and queen when necessary – so don’t underestimate her, as she’s more than a handful.  The people love her, ‘nd she’s a blessing to the Kingdom of Arwyall, but of course, you’ll find that out for yourself sooner or later…”  What caught Jonathan’s attention were the two phrases about being ‘more than a handful,’ and ‘you’ll find that out for yourself sooner or later.’

In fact, when Princess Aydreanna had said she’d ‘like to hear more about this land of Ohio you hail from,’ the very idea crossed his mind that she might like to go on adventures with him!  She was his same age after all, and here was the possibility he could have a friend to share his and Sammy’s adventures with – after all, she did call Sammy a ‘handsome dog’ and ‘a true hero,’ so she must like Sammy, too – but of course he immediately dismissed the entire idea as foolishness.  ‘After all, she was a princess and he was a commoner – from America, and not even from this world.  How could that ever work out?  All he wanted was an adventure companion.  Was that such an impossible idea?’ he pondered to himself, finally snapping out of his thoughts and refocusing on what they were getting ready to do.

“Come on, Sammy, we have to head down to the banquet hall with our escort for dinner.  It’s not just any dinner after all, we’re having supper with a princess!  She wants to know more about our old stomping grounds on the farm.  Who knows, maybe one day we can actually show her where we found the cave, and all around the farm.  I’m sure my mom will even bake a new batch of chocolate chip cookies for us.  Do you think Princess Aydreanna will like chocolate chip cookies, Sammy?  She’s probably never had one before, so maybe mom can make a variety, just in case there’s another type of cookie she likes better – like one of those Pecan Sandies, or one of mom’s famous chocolate peanut butter cookies!  She might even like oatmeal raisin cookies too, or perhaps some of mom’s homemade fudge, what do you think?  I know, I’ll just ask mom to make a little of everything when we show up, after all, she’ll be a guest and all.  Of course there’ll be plenty of treats for you, too, Sammy – won’t that be fun!”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Three

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

Princess Aydreanna paused for a moment to let Jonathan’s story sink in before replying, “Yours is an interesting tale, Master Jonathan, and Sammy is indeed a handsome dog and a true hero for his barking to alert the crew of the Wrexham of your plight at sea.  King Abersoch and Queen Arvanna are currently away from the kingdom attending the Harlech Conference in the Kingdom of  Ystwyth, and will be returning soon before additional sea ice moves into the Sea of Harlech within the Six Kingdoms.  The conference is addressing the concerns of each of our independent kingdoms, as to our cooperation in ensuring everyone survives this sudden onset of winter.  In the meantime, you and Sammy will stay in the guest quarters of Castle Aberyst until my parents return, where they will no doubt be very interested to learn more of what you know about your friend Illandor.”

Princess Aydreanna continued, “I would also like to hear more about this land of Ohio you hail from, as we have no understanding of things beyond our own world.  It is most fortunate for us, that you and Mr. Maestyg will be able to enlighten us as to this Land of Myllanthar that lies west of the Sea of Dawye.  The king and queen will be interested in all you know, and will no doubt call Mr. Maestyg to the castle to discuss these new lands in some detail.  For now, you and Sammy are to remain with the official delegation until I have received Captain Amlwch’s crew, and the unloading of the Wrexham has begun, and then you will accompany me and the official party as we make our way back into the castle.”

“Thank you very much, Your Royal Highness, Sammy and I appreciate your hospitality.  You’d like Illandor very much, as I’m sure your parents – the king and queen – would as well.  He also goes by Myllanthal, Arrydor and Gramps – or at least he’s Gramps to me, as he reminds me of my Grandfather Spencer in Minnesota.”  One of the uniformed officers flanking Princess Aydreanna then led Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy to take their positions alongside the official delegation as Captain Amlwch began introducing his crew to the princess.

Once the formalities of the Royal Welcome were over, horse drawn wagons arrived with additional manpower to begin unloading the Wrexham’s cargo, under the supervision of Captain Amlwch, his crew and Maestyg.  Jonathan and Sammy rode with Princess Aydreanna in her coach amidst the snow flurries back into Castle Aberyst, where members of the Royal Staff led her two guests to their room in the castle’s guest quarters.  A member of staff was assigned to assist Jonathan and Sammy in whatever they needed, conducted an informal tour of the castle and grounds for them, and escorted them around the castle to where they needed to go.  Jonathan was full of questions during the tour and asked everything that came to mind, and their escort answered all of his questions.

After taking a well needed bath and resting for a while, Jonathan put on a change of clothes that had been provided for him – a set of traditional clothing of the Kingdom of Arwyall in his size: a heavy beige tunic, woolen undergarments and socks, woolen pants, tall brown leather boots, and a woolen cap and gloves.  It was the first time since he and Sammy had first set off to explore the cave on the Spencer Family Farm, that he finally began to feel clean and proper again.  Sammy had been taken away by one of the staff members to receive his own bath and brushing, and when he returned he looked like the overgrown puppy he still was – at least in his own mind.

In that moment a mirror in their quarters caught Jonathan’s eye, and as he stared at himself looking back from the mirror, he thought he was looking at a picture of someone else in a book of fairy tales.  He was dressed as anyone else would have been in the Kingdom of Arwyall, standing in the guest quarters of Castle Aberyst under the care of the Royal Family, with a member of staff to look after their every need.  ‘Was it possible that Gramps would find his way to Aberon or that he and Sammy would ever find their way back to Hampton, Ohio and his parent’s farm?’ thought Jonathan.  Of course he knew they’d returned home after both of their previous adventures to Myllanthar, but they never knew how or when they’d make their way back – and of course, there was no guarantee they would ever make it back home.  For the very first time since beginning this adventure, Jonathan began thinking of what it would be like if they stayed in the Kingdom of Arwyall forever.

It suddenly occurred to him that he had heard of the Kingdom of Arwyall before, and turned to his backpack alongside his bed to look for something.  There, in an outside pocket, he found what he was looking for – gold and silver coins minted with the words ‘Kingdom of Arwyall’ on the front of the coins.  The person whose skeleton they discovered in the caverns had been carrying these coins in an ancient wooden chest, and had traveled all the way to the cavern system of Southern Ohio.  Perhaps it wasn’t a choice between living in the Kingdom of Arwyall or in Hampton, Ohio – perhaps he could live in both…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Two

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Six, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

Captain Amlwch led his passengers and crew down the gangplank to meet Princess Aydreanna with a bow and said, “Your Royal Highness, it is with great pleasure that I return the Wrexham to Aberon with its full cargo of foodstuffs for the Kingdom of Arwyall ‘nd its people.  Aye, we were the last ship to depart the Southwest Kingdoms, ‘nd were caught in the same terrible northern storm that filled our seas with sea ice ‘nd a harsh early arrival of winter.  We almost didn’t make it back, as at every turn the ice flows attempted to entrap the ship, but by grace and mercy, the Wrexham finally managed to sail back to port with favorable winds these past two days.”

“We are pleased with your arrival and for the ship’s cargo, Captain Amlwch,” replied Princess Aydreanna. “Our kingdom is honored and in your debt for your bravery and courage in successfully completing your trade mission.  In fact, every trading vessel the kingdom launched this past spring and summer returned successfully to add to Arwyall’s coffers to provision the kingdom through the winter – and the Wrexham is the final ship to do so.  Your ship will be unloaded here and its provisions stored in the castle for the people of Aberon, as the port’s warehouses are now full.  Our kingdom’s people rejoice at their good fortune after two failed harvests, and our joy extends to the record catch brought in this summer and autumn by the kingdom’s fishing fleet as well – well done Captain Amlwch!”

“Thank you for your praise, Princess Aydreanna – aye, we’re very fortunate to have returned safely,” answered Captain Amlwch.  “In addition to the trade mission, we rescued two marooned sailors and their dog from certain death in a shattered longboat we came across in the middle of the Sea of Dawye.  They hail from new lands to the west we’ve no record of, and this winter I suggest we plan a spring venture to explore these new kingdoms with hopes of increased trade.  It happens that one island kingdom in the west harbors evil intentions, and was the reason these sailors cast out under sail into Dawye for freedom, but their longboat was destroyed in the same northern storm we happened upon.  I present to you now Mr. Maestyg, of the Island of Tyull.”

Maestyg bowed to Princess Aydreanna and said, “It is a pleasure to be received by you and the Kingdom of Arwyall, Your Royal Highness.  Jonathan, Sammy and I owe our lives to Captain Amlwch’s merciful actions of rescuing us at sea and returning us to health, as we were at death’s door.  We have provided Captain Amlwch and his crew with information concerning the Land of Myllanthar, and I will be able to sail with him and the fleet in the spring to help lead the venture to the new world, if it would please you for me to do so.”

“It does please me, Mr. Maestyg, and I commend you to Captain Amlwch’s watch and protection over the winter to aid him in planning this venture to the new world.”

“Thank you, Your Royal Highness,” replied Captain Amlwch.  “Aye, I now present Jonathan Spencer and his faithful dog and companion, Sammy, to you.  They hail from a place called the Spencer Family Farm in Hampton, of Southern Ohio, in America.  Aye, young Jonathan is not yet nine years old, and says this Ohio is not of our world, but that he is a friend of Illandor who can vouch for him – a recommendation I accept on face value.”

“We are pleased to meet you, Your Royal Highness, and we thank Captain Amlwch for rescuing us at sea.  Sammy and I were exploring a cave deep underground, when a staircase led us to the Island Fortress of Tyull where Maestyg rescued us from evil guards.  We escaped from Tyull in a longboat, but almost died at sea in the terrible storm.  We wouldn’t be alive today if it hadn’t been for Captain Amlwch and Lieutenant Tenby – and of course, for Sammy – as his barking alerted the lieutenant that we were nearby, otherwise the Wrexham wouldn’t have seen or rescued us.”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Six, Part One

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Six, Part One

~~~~~~~~~~

The towering cliffs of the Kingdom of Arwyall were lined with onlookers encouraging the Wrexham on to Aberon, quite a sight to the crew and passengers that had earlier not believed they’d make it back to port safely.  Jonathan was transfixed by the sight of Castle Aberyst just to the south of Aberon’s bay and port, positioned defensively atop the rocky cliffs.  The castle’s stone blocks were quarried nearby, where the beautiful white stone was synonymous with Arwyall’s notion of truth, purity, loyalty and honor – a belief that was not only symbolic, but very true in fact – for the kingdom, and the entire Harlech Federation, believed to its core in doing what was right, regardless of the outcome.

As the Wrexham made its final turn to the east into the expansive deep water port of Aberon under the shadow of Castle Aberyst, Jonathan was amazed at the picture-perfect layout of the port area.  The Bay of Aberon was a large, circular bay of classic proportions, with the City of Aberon in the middle of the eastern shore, and the port to the northeast at the mouth of the River Aberon.  Directly to the south sat the impressive Castle Aberyst defending the entrance to the bay, while its high walls, turrets, towers and expansive decorative gardens continued eastwards to where they met up with the city itself.

It quickly became evident that the Wrexham was expected to dock at the Royal Dock on the south side of the bay, where an official delegation had assembled awaiting their arrival.  Captain Amlwch instructed his crew to make themselves as presentable as they could on such short notice, while instructing Lieutenant Tenby to gently steer the ship to a perfect arrival docking, slackening the Wrexham’s many sails in an orderly progression as they neared the dock and the awaiting arrival party.  ‘Why was there such a big fuss awaiting their arrival?’ thought Captain Amlwch to himself, not knowing his was the last remaining trade mission ship to return to port, and more than reason enough to celebrate the very survival of the kingdom despite the early onset of a very harsh winter.

In fact, snowflakes filled the sky as the Wrexham docked at the Royal Dock, and the crew prepared the ship for arrival.  It was miraculous indeed that the ship had made it safely to port, despite the weather’s best attempts at entrapping and dooming the ship in ice.  With the large number of dignitaries awaiting them at dockside, Captain Amlwch was surprised to see that the king and queen weren’t part of the welcoming ceremony.  He thought that to be rather odd, but went about his duties as captain anyway to ensure the Wrexham was safely tied up to the dock and the gang plank secured in place.  It sure was a welcoming sight though, as he had never in all his years at sea felt as relieved as he was now to be safely back in port.

Jonathan was overwhelmed by everything he observed in that moment: Castle Aberyst rising high above them, the beautiful circular bay, the City of Aberon and the port beyond with its many ships safely docked for the winter.  The fact that it was snowing made for a magical moment, and his focus returned to Sammy at his side and how relieved he felt to be finally dockside in such a wondrous setting.  The Royal Dock was full of a number of impressive dignitaries and ceremonial guards lined up to welcome the Wrexham home, but Jonathan was surprised to see a young girl standing front and center in the place of honor before the rest of the dignitaries and Royal Band, flanked by two uniformed and highly decorated officers on either side of her and just a step behind her.

Catching Maestyg’s attention, Jonathan asked him, “Who do you think the girl is waiting for us on the dock, Maestyg?”

After a moment’s pause, Maestyg replied, “I don’t know, Jonathan, but it looks like she’s important – why don’t you ask Captain Amlwch?”

After walking the short distance to where the captain was standing at the gunwale, Jonathan asked, “Captain Amlwch, why is the girl on the Royal Dock waiting there for us?  She appears to be about my age, but it looks like she’s important – who is she?”

“Aye, the young girl dockside, Jonathan?  You’re right, she’s ’bout your age I sup’ose, eight I beli’ve.  She is important, for she’s Princess Aydreanna, the daug’ter ‘nd only child of King Abersoch ‘nd Queen Arvanna, who must be away on other matters at the moment.  I still don’t know what all the fuss is about over the Wrexham returning to port.  Princess Aydreanna is quite capable in her own rights though, Jonathan, for she often ventures into the kingdom to represent the king and queen when necessary – so don’t underestimate her, as she’s more than a handful.  The people love her, ‘nd she’s a blessing to the Kingdom of Arwyall, but of course, you’ll find that out for yourself sooner or later…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Five, Part Ten

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Five, Part Ten

~~~~~~~~~~

It became increasingly difficult for the Wrexham to make progress, within the thickening islands of ice so close to the dangerous coastline of the Kingdom of Arwyall.  The ship was so close to shore that the crew observed riders on horseback looking down on them from high atop the daunting cliffs, before riding off in hast northwards towards the port city of Aberon.  The southerly winds maintained their consistency, but the winds alone were not enough to force the ship forwards through the ice.  Captain Amlwch looked out over the Wrexham’s bow at the difficulty they faced from the shifting ice ahead of them.  By now the day was coming to a close, yet they had made at best only a quarter of the way towards Aberon, and at this rate, they were still days out from arriving at the port – if they would arrive at all.

Captain Amlwch made the call to turn the ship towards the rocky coastline below the towering cliffs, so as to try and wait out both the weather and the ice, while anchored overnight as close to the shoreline as they dared.  There was no sense in trying to make their way through the ice in the darkness, as they’d only risk miring the ship deeper into the ice flows, that they’d be unable to later free themselves from.  Anchoring so close to the rocky shore was risky enough, but as the weather was clear and winds calm at night, the risk was acceptable in light of the difficult conditions presented by the ice.  The captain’s hope was that morning might bring a change in the winds that would favor them, and if not, at least the ship would be as close to shore as possible to help ensure its crew and passengers would survive.

At the first light of day, the crew already knew the night had indeed been quiet with calm winds.  As they waited for a sense of change in the weather, they didn’t have to wait long.  Sheltered under the western cliffs of the Kingdom of Arwyall, they didn’t feel the winds at first, but realized the winds must have shifted again out of the east, as the sea ice was already farther from shore than it had been the evening before.  Captain Amlwch immediately ordered the crew to raise anchor and set out in haste to the north towards Aberon, as this reprieve in the weather might be their last possible chance.  At first it was tricky to fill the Wrexham’s sails with the easterly breezes from underneath the shelter of the cliffs, but they also benefited from a high tide overnight that was now retreating out to sea, helping to float the ship farther offshore where it could catch the winds unabated.

The entire day provided fair weather and favorable winds, as the Wrexham made good time northward along the coastline under the ever watchful cliffs.  By now there were crowds gathering high above on the cliff edges, as villagers had no doubt heard that the last remaining ship of the summer’s trade mission was returning from its quest with a full cargo of foodstuffs for the kingdom’s people.  What Captain Amlwch and his crew didn’t and couldn’t know though, was that the kingdom’s fishing fleet had indeed had a record catch over the summer and early fall, and that the Wrexham was the final inbound ship of the kingdom’s successful trade mission, to fill Arwyall’s coffers with enough foodstuffs to provide for its people through the winter.

The decision was made to continue sailing through the night, while favorable winds and conditions kept the ice flows just far enough to the west, to allow the Wrexham the chance to arrive in Aberon the next day.  The crew and Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy were on deck at sunrise, waiting to see what the new day would bring them, and if they would have a chance of making it to port after all.  As the first rays of light crested the cliffs high above, everyone aboard the ship was amazed at what they now saw – as villagers and townspeople lined the cliffs waving and cheering in encouragement for the final leg of the Wrexham’s voyage home!  Captain Amlwch took the opportunity to point out for Maestyg and Jonathan’s benefit the object just visible atop the coastal cliffs far off in the distance – the white stone blocks of a fairy tale castle to Jonathan’s eyes – Castle Aberyst of the Kingdom of Arwyall, rising above the capitol and port city of Aberon…

(End of Chapter Five)

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Five, Part Nine

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Five, Part Nine

~~~~~~~~~~

The Wrexham made slow and cautious progress throughout the night, while attempting to sail as close to the coastline of Arwyall as was prudent.  One wrong maneuver in the darkness would have grounded the ship on the rocks along the rocky coastline, putting an end to the urgent mission of delivering their overloaded cargo of precious foodstuffs to the people of Aberon.  While the ship managed to avoid much of the ice flows overnight, there were still a few minor collisions, resulting in a number of empty casks and barrels positioned along the waterline at the bow needing to be replaced.  While the empty casks provided a much needed barrier when colliding with the floating islands of ice, the result was always more smashed vessels that needed to be swapped out, and there were only a handful of empty barrels and casks remaining on the Wrexham’s deck.

The now empty containers of salted fish, grains, potatoes, beans, onions, whisky, rum and the like had been full when the Wrexham departed Aberon in the spring on its voyage to the kingdoms of the far southwest on its trade mission, but were now empty after having sustained the crew for the last 6 months at sea.  The ship’s crew had been enduring minimum rations now for the past two weeks, as they hadn’t wanted to resort to consuming the very cargo they needed to deliver to the people of Aberon.  Not only had winter arrived two months early as a result of the powerful northern storm, but it had already dropped temperatures to below freezing at night, and the crew wasn’t prepared with winter clothing to deal with such harsh and challenging conditions.

Jonathan was given a set of suitable clothing of leather boots, woolen pants and a shirt made from a canvas type cloth of a heavy weave, only because the smallest member of the crew had become ill and died on the ship’s outward leg of their trading voyage, resulting in his having been buried at sea.  Captain Amlwch made the mistake of not fully restocking the crew’s provisions for their return leg to the Kingdom of Arwyall, because he had overspent and overloaded the Wrexham with the precious cargo needed by his people.  A failed autumn harvest the year before, and a miserably wet spring resulted in a failed spring harvest this year, meaning that their only hope was for a decent summer crop followed by an even better fall harvest – but this early cold would have already ruined it by now.  The only way the people of the Kingdom of Arwyall and the rest of the Harlech Federation would avoid starvation, would be if the fishing fleet brought in a record catch this year, and the trading fleet of every ship that had been able to launch returned with overflowing cargoes, otherwise there wouldn’t be enough food for the kingdom to survive the punishing early onset of winter.

Dawn brought with it fair but frigid skies, while the winds shifted from the easterly offshore winds that had been favorable the night before for keeping the ice away from the coastline, to southerly winds with a touch of warmth behind them.  While the southerly winds aided the Wrexham in its northerly course along the shoreline, they also began forcing the ice flows towards the coastline, making it more difficult for the Wrexham to find clear water for it to make maximum progress in.  Aberon was still a day and a half sail away for the ship, its crew, and precious cargo, but having to navigate within the ice flows meant that Aberon was now two days away at best, and at worse, they feared becoming trapped within the thickening islands of ice.

Captain Amlwch was worried that the odds were stacked against his ship and crew from being able to maneuver through the ice flows, while avoiding the dangerous rocks and shallows of the rugged western coastline of Arwyall.  There were no other ports or safe havens to put the Wrexham into short of Aberon – and if the ship ran into the rocks, its cargo would be ruined without any hope of salvage – as the towering western cliffs were easily one hundred feet high with sheer drops straight down.  People from nearby villages above the cliffs would only be able to watch the ship and its cargo being ravaged by the waves upon the rocks, helpless to even think of recovering it for themselves.  All this was known to Maestyg and Jonathan, as they watched the unfolding drama happening around them at sea, unable to change the course or outcome of this high stakes voyage, while at the same time, simply glad to be alive…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Five, Part Eight

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Five, Part Eight

~~~~~~~~~~

It had been six arduous days as the Wrexham managed to hold together amidst the increasingly dense ice flows, despite a mounting number of collisions with the migrating islands of ice.  Captain Amlwch prayed the forward planks, ribs, spars and timbers would hold up against the punishing blows dealt by the ice pack to the ship’s constitution, knowing that if the Wrexham’s hull were to crack from the pressure of impacting the ice flows, there would be precious little his crew could do to stem the inflow of water below the ship’s waterline.  The Wrexham was overloaded with its heavy cargo of foodstuffs as it was, so any leakage would surely lower the ship well below its designed waterline.  After that, the ship would be vulnerable to additional ice collisions against the thinner hull planking above the designed waterline – as well as rendering it unstable in anything but the mildest of sea states.

That had been the situation up until the cry of “Land Ahoy!” had just been heard from the ship’s watch in the crow’s nest, high above on the main spar in the ship’s rigging.  Captain Amlwch had moved forward to the bow to peer ahead through his spyglass to see if he could see land from the ship’s forward deck that his lookout had proclaimed, and after a tense few minutes he recognized the ‘Three Sisters’ rock islands, the nautical landmark marking the southwestern coastal boundary of the Kingdom of Arwyall – and let out a cry of relief, as did his crew.  It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, as the Wrexham wallowed in increasingly difficult seas, while struggling to maintain progress through thickening ice and lessening winds.

It was now all-hands-on-deck as the Wrexham began the process of making a smooth turn northwards to parallel the coastline of Arwyall as closely as possible, while maintaining a safe distance from offshore islands and underwater rock hazards.  The western shoreline of the Kingdom of Arwyall was a beautifully rugged picture of towering rock cliffs, jagged rocky islands, submerged rocks, tidal shallows and shoals.  Captain Amlwch hoped the ice flows would lessen closer to the coast, yet so far it seemed to be the opposite case – for the ice islands appeared through his spyglass to bunch together in a thickening mass that would prevent the Wrexham from passing through them.  If this was indeed the case, the ship might find itself trapped within the ice without any chance of freeing itself within eyesight of their homeland.

Yet, Aberon was still two days north in good seas, and there was no telling when or even if they would ever arrive there.  If they were to become entrapped within the ice flows, there would be no hope for the ship, for the Wrexham would be slowly squeezed by the expanding ice as the winter temperatures dropped, resulting in its hull splitting and sinking from the immense pressure the ice would squeeze it with.  They wouldn’t really know the state of the sea or ice until they reached the coastline itself, and once there, they wouldn’t have the option to reverse course.  The only thing they could possibly do now was to avoid the western coastline altogether, and turn southeast beyond the Three Sisters to sail up the eastern coastline of Arwyall, but that wasn’t their intended destination.  Captain Amlwch rolled the dice and placed his bet on sailing up the western shoreline of Arwyall to Aberon – and it would either work, or it wouldn’t – but as captain, it was his choice to make, and he’d made it.

Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy joined the crew in watching the Wrexham’s turning maneuver that would swing the ship northwards towards Aberon, with everyone hoping they’d find favorable seas, and a lessening of ice pack.  Once the ship completed its turn to the north and began paralleling the coast, the crew knew they were homeward bound, for they felt an easterly wind blowing offshore that kept the ice islands away from the coastline.  It was the very condition that had led Captain Amlwch to believe the ice flows were bunching up and thickening, yet from his earlier perspective he couldn’t tell how far or close the ice accumulation was from shore.  Now that they were hugging the shoreline of Arwyall, the coastal seas were clear of ice for now.

The crew trimmed the Wrexham’s sails for their new northern course with easterly winds, hoping the conditions would remain favorable for their two day voyage to Aberon.  The worst of possibilities now, was that a 180 degree turn in the winds from the west, would trap them between islands of ice and the rocky shoreline in no time at all.  However, the most immediate threat was navigating up the coastline in the dark while avoiding the rocks and shallows of the coast, for they couldn’t spare the time to drop anchor overnight and delay for even a minute longer.  Fortunately, the skies were clear in the frosty cold weather, providing enough light for the ship’s crew to navigate by.  Winter was arriving with a vengeance though, so there was no time to lose…