The battle was a swift affair. Once the soldiers heard that the Prince was back, bursting out of the Ghost House at the head of an army, their loyalty to the Steward melted quickly away. The guards at the gatehouse turned pale with fear when they saw First Consul Dama striding into their post, and they did not even pause when carrying out his orders.
As soon as the doors of the West Gate thundered open, a shout went up from outside. The children peered over the battlements to see not only Mack and Kobi there, but nearly the whole of the army they had left in the foothills the day before. With a cry of triumph, they raised their swords and charged into the city.
Joe and Sim ran down from the walls to meet them. Kobi, running at the head of the army, slowed his pace and bowed to the boys. Sir Mack tipped his helmet in respect.
“To the Citadel!” Joe shouted. “The Prince is alive, and he’s going there to fight the Steward!”
Beaming with joy, the two knights set their gazes toward the towering fortress at the heart of the city, and with a wave of Kobi’s arm, the whole force set off at a dash again. Dama and the children joined in, jogging along with the army as they traced their way down the broad central avenues of Arrens.
By the time they reached the Citadel, the triumph was already nearly in hand. The soldiers there had apparently thrown open the doors to the Prince, risen and fierce in all his splendor, and they simply stood to the side as he and the others from the Ghost House ran up into the tower. Now, faced with a fully-armed horde bursting through their gates, the soldiers simply threw down their weapons and surrendered.
They reached the main stairway of the Citadel just in time to see Steward Presten stumbling down, his hands tied behind his back. His face was twisted into a grimace—not of despair, but of hatred and disgust. His purple robes now looked not like a mark of pomp and glory, but like the costume of a painted fool. Behind him came the Prince, Sim’s spear still in hand, forcing the usurper down.
“Take him,” ordered the Prince, looking to Mack and Kobi. “Put him in the prison he made.”
The two knights bowed, and they seized the Steward by his upper arms and led him away.
The Prince looked down at the three children and smiled.
“It’s finished,” he said. “Now the King’s peace will reign over Arrens again.”
~ ~ ~
Trumpets rang out a jubilant peal over the city, and in the bright sunshine, high over the towers of Arrens, the banner of the royal family floated on the wind. Inside the great throne room, all gilt in gold and flowing tapestries, Prince Halbrinnon was being crowned the king of the realm. This was the moment of celebration they had all been waiting for—the day of feasting and joy for the whole city which the Steward’s plot had delayed. And now, to have Halbrinnon back after the desolation of his fall, their joy was all the more full.
The coronation took place with all the grand ceremony reserved for such events, and all the nobles and knights who had stood loyally with the royal house throughout the previous days were now welcomed to stand in witness to this highest of moments. Joe, Sim, and Lady were there too, at the special request of the Prince himself, and each had been given grand new clothes to wear. The story of their adventure had been talked about throughout the city, and now the siblings were known far and wide as “the Prince’s Squires” and, more fancifully still, “the Knights of the Golden Coin,” in reference to the coin Joe used to confirm that he had first seen the fleeing Prince in the street that night. So there they stood at the great coronation, each in a tunic which bore an emblem of that coin on the chest, and each with a golden cape flowing about their shoulders.
Halbrinnon himself sat on the throne at the front of the hall, wearing a simple white robe with a bright red sash across his chest. When the ceremony was complete and the glittering crown of Arrens rested on his brow, the whole hall gave up such a cheer that it seemed to shake the stones in the walls and the floor.
“And now,” said the newly-crowned King as he rose from his throne. “Before we begin the celebrations, I have one first royal act to put in motion. May I have the honor of having my three squires come to the front?”
Joe, Sim, and Lady exchanged a glance of nervous delight, and stepped forward. They stood at the front of the crowd, facing the throne.
“My friends,” said the King, speaking tenderly to them, but in a voice loud enough for all to hear. “You believed in me when no one else did, and followed me to the ends of the earth. Now I endow you with the full splendor of my reign—no longer are you squires of the Prince; I am making you the ambassadors of the King. From this moment forward you bear my name and the full glory of my house, my crown, and my throne. You will walk with me here in the palace and everywhere I go, and in every place I send you, you will be the royal representatives of my kingdom, with all the duties, powers, and privileges thereof. This I give because you are my friends, my fellow adventurers…” his voice thickened with emotion for a moment as he looked down on them, “and because I love you. Now turn and receive the reward of my faithful ones.”
So the three children, with broad grins and blushing cheeks, turned to look at the crowd. And the sea of knights and nobles bowed low, and then rose and broke into a thunderous round of applause. Sir Mack, standing in the front, gave them a wink, and Kobi gestured to them as if tipping an imaginary cap.
The children chuckled and blushed even brighter red. The boys bowed to the crowd in return, and Lady did an elegant curtsy.
“And now, my friends,” Halbrinnon called out, “let the celebration begin, and let the King’s peace reign here, now and forevermore!”
~ The End ~