The next day they had an audience with King Francis. It was an uninformative business. After this was done they returned to the car for the tedious return trip to Alemara.

They hadn’t even gotten out of town when suddenly two armed men appeared in front of them. The driver stopped suddenly in the middle of the street.

“Get out of the car,” the one pointing his AK-47 at the driver’s side said. “All of you—you’re coming with us.”

Before they even had a chance to reach for the door handle, they heard a voice from behind the gunmen: “I wouldn’t be so hasty throwing your weight around here, boys.” It was Count Michael’s men’s commander. He had all of his forces with him.

It was a tense moment; the first two gunmen were ready to fill the car with lead, while Count Michael’s men ringed them and the car ever more closely. It seemed like an eternity, especially to those in the car who could feel the crossfire coming. The two gunmen kept moving their glance between the car and the Count’s men. The street cleared rapidly as everyone around the scene sought the best cover they could find.

“Why don’t you boys just drop your weapons and get out of here,” the Count’s commander said. “This isn’t your part of town anyway.” It was another long sequence of seconds, but the two gunmen did as they were told and scampered onto a side street.

The commander walked to the car and its relieved occupants. “Bounty hunters,” he said. “We would have been here sooner but we just got wind of it. We’ll escort you out of town until you can get into safer territory.” They had two cars with them; one lead, one followed, and one of the men took the front passenger’s seat while Terry was crammed into the back with the royals.

They got out of town until they reached one of the “toll booths,” at which point Count Michael’s men left them. “Thank you for getting us here,” Terry told the commander.

“It’s our pleasure,” he said. “But don’t get slack so soon, it’ll get worse before it gets better where you’re going.” The men went back to town while the trio proceeded to Alemara.

Upon their return, they stopped by the Serelian embassy there. George found out that his cousin was coming back. When he got to Serelia, he discovered that King Adam was off at his estate, so his consultation didn’t amount to much. Terry and Darlene found it hard to stop laughing about this impish slight of hand on George’s part. The important news, however, was that the Verecundans had issued and delivered the letters of immunity for all three of the party, and that they were expecting them to arrive in Verecunda tomorrow afternoon. With that, they returned to the boat to make sure everything was ready for the next day’s voyage.