To help readers along and escape this crazy world for a bit, this site will be used to add some random stories for entertainment.
I will be returning to the world of the Ancient Guardians characters and my hope was to use Harrison’s sense of humor to lighten things up for us. As I said on my FB author page, Harrison shocked me when I stepped back into this world only to find him in a bad mood. LOL. This guy.
Though, I just wrote the second part today and he’s more loosened up. Let’s hope this helps readers get through these tough times. For now I’ll post what I write here:
So the title is: The Stopover and subtitle has become: All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Harrison sour mood back together again 😉
I hope you enjoy.
Harrison sat at the table filled with royals and people of importance in the current kingdom they were visiting. He silently exhaled, concealing the fact that he’d reached his limits of everyone at this table, engaging in useless conversation to impress the fact that the emperor was visiting.
“The emperor and his wife are in excellent spirits for having visited so many kingdoms,” Duchess Juliette whispered to Harrison, sitting at his left.
Harrison’s eyes left Angie’s amused ones from sitting across the table. He took a sip of his brandy, “Indeed they are.” Harrison said, knowing this woman, a meaningless relationship from his past was trying to engage him.
She chuckled, bringing Harrison to look at her. “Forgive me,” she giggled, “But why am I not surprised that you are the only one drinking brandy while the rest of us are sipping wine.”
Is she serious? “There is no need to forgive such an ignorant statement, duchess,” he answered with a cheeky grin. “I believe you of all people should know me well enough to know that I do not follow others as if I were a sheep.”
“You haven’t changed at all,” she sipped her wine. “I will admit that I am quite shocked that any woman could handle you as her husband.”
“Perhaps you are not shocked, my lady, but the proper emotion would be jealous.” Harrison taunted.
He watched her cheeks flush red, “You are the worst man I have ever known.”
“I know,” Harrison smiled, “I believe those were the very last words you told me since I last saw you.”
Harrison motioned for a refill of his drink, only to catch the somber eye of Levi. “I’m not getting drunk, emperor,” he telepathically informed his cousin, “I’m merely at my limits with this meal that has lasted long enough. Wrap it up, of all kings, this one I despise the most.”
Levi’s smirk told Harrison what the man already knew. The woman sitting to his left, Duchess Juliette, was a mistake he made long ago and had forgotten about until he sat to dine at this table.
Harrison’s lips twisted up into a grin that only the devil himself could give. Levi brought his attention back to King Brandon, ignoring Harrison’s mental communication with him and the look of revenge his cousin had on his face.
In Harrison’s opinion, this was an intentional stop, and therefore, Harrison would ensure that they dug deep into the kingdom and not just sit at a table filled with fake and lying conversations in order to please the emperor.
King Brandon was another annoyance from the past. The last time Harrison and Levi both encountered the young king was in their early guardian training days. It was no surprise when Brandon left the guardian units and went back to this kingdom on orders from his father. King Garrett informed Emperor Navarre that his son, Brandon should be sent home and pulled from the guardian units. It was his plea that Brandon left to prepare himself to be a future king and to take over the land and rule in his place.
Brandon was annoying, to say the least. He practically cried like a spoiled child if he missed a step in training, or was reprimanded for anything. It was obvious to all that he was never so grateful to leave guardian training—and in Harrison’s opinion, hide behind the crown and live his life out as the coward, spoiled duke he was.
“And what is your outlook on this matter, Harrison?” Levi asked, knowing that Harrison’s glaring over at King Brandon talking was going to lead to further gossip after dinner was over.
“Harrison?” King Brandon sat back in his chair, bringing his chalice of wine to his lips, “I thought he is now referred to as the Guardian Commander?”
Harrison stretched his arm out on the table and reclined in his seat, knowing it was an informal and a rude gesture toward the king at his table. He refrained from showing any frustration at King Brandon’s taunting him.
“Harrison you are making yourself out to be a fool. It’s obvious, sit up and this all shall be over soon. In fact, I will take the king up on his offer to stay over for the evening just to torment you further, if you do not.”
“Empty threats. I shall have my revenge on you planning this stop in the first place, dear cousin.”
“What was that?” Harrison said, proving his boredom to everyone who was now paying full attention to him and his interaction with their king.
“The emperor just referred to you informally, and I believe you are known as the guardian commander, am I correct?” King Brandon asked.
“Indeed, I am. However, I believe you just insulted your emperor.” Harrison gladly used the man’s lack of sense while insulting him to address the fact that the king had just insulted Levi. “However, the emperor is more forgiving than I am, so I believe your bringing up he spoke my name informally at your little dining table will be forgiven.”
“Emperor,” King Brandon looked at Levi in fear, “Forgive me, it was not my intention to insult or reprimand your words.
Oh give me a break.Harrison thought to himself.
“No,” Harrison spoke before Levi could. “It wasn’t your intent to insult the emperor, I believe all at this table know that. You intended to insult me, KingBrandon.”
“I was only leading a conversation to express my gratefulness that you are our commander.”
Harrison deescalate this conversation before I do.Levi’s orders were stern when he telepathically spoke to his cousin.
“I’ve been commander for years,” Harrison said, ignoring Levi’s request, “I find it odd that you are just now acknowledging that.”
King Brandon sighed as the servants walked in to take their dinner plates and replace them with dessert.
“Forgive the commander,” Levi said with another glance of warning to his cousin. “He grows weary when out traveling abroad.”
“I know the commander well enough, emperor,” King Brandon smirked as if he had Levi on his side. “This banter is nothing new.”
“And having cake served, yet again, for dessert is nothing new to me,” Harrison said, his manners wholly gone now. “Do tell me, how are the people of your lands getting along? It seems as though your bakers could use some imagination when it comes to serving their emperor.”
This is a joke, right? Harrison, stop this now.
Harrison’s eyes went directly to his wife—the one he feared more than Levi, who right now looked as though he would strip him of his duty as Guardian Commander. The look Angeline held for Harrison was one that if it were able to be lethal, Harrison would be dead where he sat.
“Forgive me,” Harrison practically gagged on the words he was far from feeling at this point. “The emperor is correct. My irritable mood is present due to sitting and dining at tables all over the lands. I believe I should excuse myself before I embarrass the emperor further.”
When Harrison stood, the table followed. He was causing an unnecessary scene, and he knew it. Something bothered Harrison—it was more than the boredom of visiting these kings and listen to them pay everyone lips service at every kingdom they visited. This idiot—in Harrison’s opinion—was hiding something. But how did Reece not pick up on this when they first arrived? She was the one who always got a perfect read on anyone. Even worse, how in the heck was Harrison the only one and not Levi or Angie?
Something wasn’t right in this kingdom, and Harrison felt it. King Brandon assumed this throne too early. Like his father before him, he was a snake. How Navarre didn’t cleanse this entire kingdom of the Julip family name and all the heirs was beyond Harrison.
Brownwell was always a quiet and small kingdom, yes. However, no kingdom under the Oxley Empire was ever treated with greater or lesser importance—big or small. This kingdom was somehow passed over though, Harrison felt it, and Levi should have immediately known it.
It could be Harrison just being highly sensitive and reaching his limits with all these visits. Harrison walked out of the castle, still unsure what had him so irritated with this particular stop.
He eyed the entourage of Pasidian’s soldiers that followed them, at least fifty men in total following with the convoy of carriages. That’s when it all came to Harrison. He smiled proudly when the idea of doing something mischievous, different, and daring hit him.
He nodded to acknowledge the Imperial guards of Pasidian Palace who stood waiting at the bottom of the stone steps on the east side of the castle. He walked purposefully toward the stables where the men were that would prepare the carriages within the next hour to leave Juntson Castle. Levi would be forced over the next hour to clean upHarrison’s mess he left behind after rudely leaving the dining table. Harrison knew his cousin would not let him off easy for his behavior. However, Harrison also knew his cousin well enough to understand he wouldn’t hold this against him either.
Usually, Harrison was in excellent spirits and would playfully taunt anyone at any given time. This seemed different. The more Harrison recalled his agitation at this particular king’s castle, the more he knew he had to take this next step in a covert operation to uncover what this foolish king was hiding.
Perhaps it was nothing, and if it were nothing, a small change of plans—like the ones that just came to Harrison wouldn’t hurt anything. In fact, it would give the horses a rest, and the four of them that were forced to listen to senseless royal nonsense a mental rest.
The plan was unfolding by the second, and Harrison wasn’t going to let anything or anyone stop him now. He needed to find the main driver to the convoy and set these plans in motion before someone did choose to come after him.
It was two hours later and Harrison and for the first time in his adult life, Harrison lost complete track of time. Scratch that, he always lost track of time when alone with his wife, Angeline. But this time, Angie wasn’t the reason for two hours slipping past him as fast as the sun was trying to set.
“Where have you been?” Angie asked as the four were reunited to give their farewells to the happy civilians that lined up in crowds to catch a glance of their emperor visiting their kingdom.
“As always, King Brandon,” Levi said as he offered a farewell handshake to the king Harrison pointedly ignored, “Pasidian Palace looks forward to your visit this summer.”
Harrison used the crowd’s enthusiasm for any acknowledgment from the Imperial family to ignore the king. He waved them off and assisted Angeline and Reece into their carriage. The convoy had multiple carriages and also twenty-five horses of Imperial Guard leading and the other twenty-five guards trailing the transports in the convoy.
Before he could inform Levi the men were riding in the carriage with the women, Harrison was in and seated.
“Harrison?” Reece said with a soft laugh, “you up for ladies talk, or here for Angie? Should I ride with—”
“Relax, green eyes,” Harrison said, one of his pet names for Reece since she took the power of the stone, and her eyes became that color. “It’ll be a long journey to our next destination, and I know you both miss the company of your men. So we’re riding with you.”
“Very bold of you to insist that is true,” Angie chuckled at her husband’s odd behavior. “What’s going on with you and why are you leaving Levi out there alone with the vultures?”
Harrison peeked out of the carriage window and smirked at his cousin caught in conversation with the queen and a few other young duchesses. “He deserves it,” Harrison said dryly. “If he wants to play blind to this idiot king, then he can find a way to excuse himself from those absurd women politely.”
“Now you sound like Levi,” Reece said with humor, “What’s gotten into you?”
Harrison smiled, “Nothing. I told you, I know you ladies missed mine and Levi’s company and I felt inclined to help fill that dreadful void.”
“Yes,” Harrison heard Levi as the door to their carriage opened, “It appears we’ll have an empty carriage.” He heard Levi stumbling over his words.
“Poor guy,” Angie said, watching out of the window from where she and Reece sat across from Harrison. She looked over at her husband, her bronze eyes setting off the beautifully defined features of her face. “You willexplain yourself once Levi is in here and we’re off. You left him in quite a precarious situation when you abandoned him in the dining hall, and now this?”
“He’ll survive,” Harrison chewed on the inside of his cheek, “Trust me, that man has put me through worse. Walking to an empty carriage due to his not paying attention we were loaded into this one, well that’s his fault, not mine.”
Angeline’s eyes narrowed at her husband. For the first time since arriving and being in the company of King Brandon, Harrison’s nerves unwound and oddly at the beauty of his wife through her angry eyes.
Loud cheers erupted as the carriage swayed to Levi stepping in, and the door shut behind him. Levi gave three raps to the carriage door and the Imperial Guards shouted to alert the departure of the Imperial convoy.
“Now,” Levi said in a low voice, “I do demand an explanation,” he said when Harrison’s eyes met his cousin’s sharp blue ones.
“In front of the ladies?” Harrison challenged Levi’s expression, “That would be rude.”
Levi’s exhale was practically a growl, “Rude?” he said with a sharp arch of his eyebrow, “I’m not playing games here, cousin,” Levi said. “We would be having this conversation in the carriage behind this one. However, my cousin chose to hide behind our wives’ lovely skirts and ride in this one.” Levi looked over at Angeline and Reece, “Forgive me if I murder my cousin in front of both of you.”
Reece and Angie chuckled in unison.
“Actually,” Angeline said, “I’d like the reasons for my husband’s irrational behavior myself. Better to have you beat it out of him than me.”
Harrison held both hands up, “Listen,” he said in his defense, “We don’t need to quarrel. Let’s just enjoy this new adventure I have planned for us.”
“Quarrel?” Levi’s voice rose three octaves. “Who are you, my mother?” he said while studying the women’s humor across from him. “Harrison,” he started in a voice that showed self-control over his current frustration. “You must give me a good reason for this behavior. Is there something with King Brandon that you are aware that I am not?”
It must have been just knowing that they were getting further away from the king’s residence. Or that hat he was in the presence of the three people he loved dearly that had Harrison feeling somewhat guilty for his behavior.
“I don’t like the man, and you know this,” Harrison said, scrambling for excuses.
Levi’s eyes widened as they darted toward the women and back to Harrison. “You were completely aware of our visit and the need for it before we arrived. If you felt this way about the man, then why didn’t you just hide in the stables with the horses from the moment we arrived?”
Harrison rubbed his forehead, “Because I would have appeared to be a coward in front of that chump. You must find a way to remove him from his ridiculous throne.” He looked over at Reece and Angie’s confused expressions, “You both did see that meaningless throne room, did you not?”
“Meaningless or not, this is not an excuse to remove an heir from his throne,” Levi said, bringing Harrison’s attention back to him.
“This is not a conversation I’m willing to have right now.”
“Willing or not, we shall have it.” Levi scolded him.
“Harrison, you’re acting like a two-year-old,” Angie bit out at him. “This tour is nearly over, and I am not ending it on a sour note with Levi and Reece. What’s the meaning of this? Why would you suddenly change your behavior and now call for a king to be unseated from his rightful kingdom?”
Harrison glanced out at the scenery of the illuminating forest the convoy was traveling through. He let the trees above them, blocking out the sun, which encouraged the foliage and blooms to illuminate in the darkened forest, soothe his body and soul. He was wound up and it was most likely all of the royal protocols he’d been subjected to. He was a military man at heart, grateful his father allowed him to abdicate his throne and offer it to a member of his mother’s family. They all knew him, loved, and trusted the man. He was a better fit for the throne than Harrison. Everyone knew that as well.
Perhaps this is why Harrison was being driven insane, doing emperor duties alongside Levi and Reece. It was a good idea at the
time, but now he was growing weary of it. Or maybe he was onto something with King Brandon?
Nevertheless, he had to find something on the king now, or he would look like the fool, not King Brandon. He also understood that Levi dreaded these visits, but they were mandatory. The emperor was to take these trips to visit the kingdoms and ensure the governing was untainted and wholesome. Levi spread the visits out, unlike Navarre had done. Navarre would be gone for months at a time with Allestaine, Levi spread the visits out while dividing them into sectors he’d visit every other month. This month was the longest of them all, and even spring blossoms and the fresh air that came with the season, none of it could ease the frustration of visiting the southern kingdoms. Levi was holding it together and the visits were short, just as this one was.
It was rare they stayed in the castles with the royal families unless the Oxley’s knew them personally and enjoyed their company. Most of the time, they stayed in lavish Inns, Pasidian Palace donating more than enough money for the family-operated businesses in the kingdoms. Somehow even Levi adding this freedom from constant royal business and affairs wasn’t enough.
The carriages all halted once the sun came back into sight. It was still high in the sky, shining like the diamond it was. It glistened over the land like it was pointing Harrison to freedom.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Levi looked at Harrison, knowing that nothing was wrong with the convoy, but that this was his cousin’s doing.
Harrison smiled, “You mentioned you simply could not dethrone that joker, correct?”
“I have no firm evidence he’s done anything wrong, Harrison.”
Harrison smiled at how much Levi sounded like his Uncle Navarre in his frustration now. “We’re going to find some then.”
The door opened, and Harrison nodded toward it. “After you, emperor.”
“Ladies,” Levi forced a smile, “It appears my cousin has lost his mind somewhere between the castle and here. Forgive us while we discuss this outside of the carriage,” he looked at Harrison, “You willexplain this and understand my patience is completely lost with you at this point.”
Harrison looked over at Angie and Reece, “I know you both are confused. However, Levi and I will not be discussingmy losing my mind. Instead, both of you shall join us on a unique visit in this kingdom. We shall hunt together for evidence and reasons for dethroning King Brandon.”
“Harrison,” Levi said from outside of the carriage, “get out of the carriage before I reach in and drag you out.”
“We’ll wait here,” Angeline said with a smile. “Harry, you’ve lost your mind, and I shall say my goodbyes to Reece while Levi prepares for our early departure home.”
“No one is going anywhere,” Levi said from outside the carriage. “I will get an explanation as Swann’s Inn is awaiting our arrival with freshly hired staff arranged to take us in.”
Harrison stepped out and could see the anger in Levi’s eyes. “You truly do not sense something is wrong?”
“No, Harrison, at least not with the kingdom. I do sensesomething is quite wrong with you. Why have the carriages stopped, and why have I spotted four riding horses coming this way? You do realize this is not a vacation, correct?”
“I know this is not a vacation. I will just come out and say it, then.” Harrison exhaled.
“Please do,” Levi folded his arms. “I’ve only been holding back from intruding into your thoughts to find these obtuse answers out for myself for that last few hours.”
“I do not believe you are doing everything in your power to investigate this kingdom.” Harrison boldly said.
“Really?” Levi answered in his smooth voice. “Forgive me for failing you, commander. As your emperor, I beg of you, do tell, how should I be investigating this kingdom?”
“By doing what I have planned.”
Levi’s eyes closed in his losing even more patience. “Harrison, if you dare say a horseback ride through a meadow will help me cleanse myself, I shall knock you out without any regret.”
Harrison laughed, “That is exactly what I’m suggesting,” he said, watching Levi’s eyes reopen in disbelief, “Well, everything but that whole knocking me out bit, of course.”
“Very well,” Levi said through gritted teeth, “I’ll humor you. Let us investigate,” he seethed out the word, “this kingdom by a joyful ride through a meadow.”
Harrison grinned, “Oh, this will be more than a joyful ride.”