The Adventures of King Carl the Squat and Prince Bortimer (Part 7)

King Carl the Squat was on the verge of a severe nervous breakdown. Having taken his bride-to-be to see the crown she would soon wear as Queen of Vlaanderen and discovering it missing was almost more than he could bear. He blamed himself for having left his realm for so long in order to travel and taste the thrill of adventure. Surely it was during his absence that this piece of royal regalia had been purloined. Although Vika, the wonderful halfling maiden to whom he was smitten seemed nonplussed by the stolen crown it was not something that King Carl was prepared to let pass without any effort made to find it with great haste.

Word had been given by the king to find the crown and apprehend whoever was responsible for the theft so that they could be properly punished. With explicit orders to keep the whole affair as quiet as possible and not let word slip out, the Royal Guards of Vlaanderen undertook in earnest their search for the missing jewelry. They hadn’t gotten far in their investigations when an unexpected message arrived announcing that King Carl the Squat’s closest friend, Prince Bortimer, would be arriving in a few days for a visit. This news lifted King Carl’s spirits tremendously and he said to his advisors and ministers in his court, “If anyone I know can help track down this notorious brigand who would so dare to steal from me, the King of Vlaanderen, it is my old adventuring companion Prince Bortimer of Slothjemia!” The courtiers of the royal court outwardly agreed but privately had their doubts. Even though King Carl spoke glowingly of Prince Bortimer everyone knew that the two men hadn’t known each other all that long. And how could a nobleman from such a faraway land as Slothjemia possibly help with this crisis?

To drive home his point on the value of Prince Bortimer in a dire situation, King Carl retold the ever-evolving tale of the mushroom hunt gone awry and the ambush of the hoary demonic hell-beast. King Carl’s leg still hurt a little even though magic and priestly spellcraft had been employed to heal the break seamlessly. But King Carl would still lean heavily on his fancy cane as he told the story to emphasize how he had suffered in this scenario. None that heard the story would have dared suggest any of it was false, or even exaggerated. The King of Vlaanderen was convinced that his friend Bortimer would be of help, and nobody could dissuade him from this belief.

For a few days the court was buzzing with intrigue, and nobody was disappointed to finally meet the now famous Prince Bortimer. This somewhat portly human was as gregarious and warm as any of the halflings that now surrounded him, and he was as gracious and delightful as King Carl had described him. He had brought an ungodly amount of luggage which took a small battalion of servants to haul off to his assigned quarters. Prince Bortimer had also brought the biggest goblinoid most any of them had ever seen, a fearsome brute who was introduced as Shr Grogdahl the swamp orc. This monster was some sort of bodyguard for Prince Bortimer and while terrifying seemed no more interested in guarding anybody than did a coat rack. He carried his own bag, and as soon as he could he left Bortimer alone with the curious halflings.

King Carl the Squat proudly introduced Prince Bortimer to all of the prominent halflings of Vlaanderen who were swarming into the capital city of Stone Bridges to meet this fascinating stranger. Finally the monarch was able to wrest his friend away from these kindly folk in order to speak with him in private.

In his most hushed and conspiratorial tone of voice, King Carl told Prince Bortimer, “Someone has stolen the crown that is to be worn by the Queen of Vlaanderen!” looking about the empty room they were in as if suspecting the draperies might be eavesdropping Carl continued. “I need your help to get the crown back so that I can be married to Vika, and she can be properly crowned Queen!”

Bortimer sat down and put his hand thoughtfully on his goateed chin. “It might take some time to find it, your majesty. I’ve heard of some missing crown jewels not being recovered for years, or even longer. No, this will never do. What we need is to replace it quickly so that you can be married, and your Queen can be coronated while we search for the original.”

King Carl clapped his hands with child-like delight. “This is why I knew you would be indispensable in this endeavor!” he exclaimed, still trying to maintain his air of secrecy and discretion in the midst of his happiness. “But where can we have such a thing made? It must be as close in appearance to my mother’s crown as can be crafted! Who could make this on such short notice?”

Prince Bortimer smiled and said, “As it happens, your majesty, I know just the fellow in my homeland. Let me write down the pertinent details and examine any paintings you might have in which the crown is featured. We don’t need an exact copy, do we? Something that looks right will do just fine, because ultimately the real crown will be found and restored. You really just need a temporary stand in unless this is something Queen Vika will be expected to wear every day.”

King Carl stood back and crossed his arms, then shook his head with a thoughtful frown. “You are correct, my friend. Other than the coronation itself she won’t wear the crown except for extremely formal occasions of state.”

Bortimer smiled and said, “We just need a fake crown for a brief bit, then, while your replacement is being made. And when we do find the original crown you can quietly store the replacement just in case this happens to one of your descendants!”

The two men, halfling and human, shared a laugh and a hug. King Carl said excitedly, “Yes, a stand-in crown while a replacement is made, and we keep looking for the stolen crown. A brilliant solution! What an adventure!”

Bortimer grinned and said to King Carl, “Let me take care of everything, your majesty. I will find a jeweler here in Stone Bridges that we can trust to keep our secret to make a quick copy that looks the part and send word to my own jeweler in Slothjemia to begin crafting a regal replacement. You keep your people looking for the real crown, and we should have all of this in hand!”

King Carl was thrilled to have been right about his dearest friend being able to solve all of the problems surrounding the stolen crown. Bortimer spent a week in Stone Bridges and during that time reported that he had found a jeweler able to make a fake crown that looked just perfect. All of the paintings of the former Queens of Vlaanderen were of a tremendous help in designing the faux headpiece, and it only took another two weeks for Prince Bortimer to return to King Carl with the good news that the wedding could proceed and the coronation immediately afterwards.

It was only natural that King Carl the Squat would want to examine the fake crown to make sure it was going to pass scrutiny. Prince Bortimer pulled it from a wooden box, and removed the purple velvet bag the crown was in. Carefully he pulled it out and handed it to King Carl who gingerly took the crown and looked at it closely.

Prince Bortimer pointed to different parts of the crown and described in detail how he thought the original crown and this one might match or contrast. “The diamonds of course are not real, that would have made this ruse far too expensive. And note the joining portions inside. Not as fine and flawless as the original, but those at a distance would never know it. Weighs about the same, I think based on what you said. And is the fabric about right?”

After careful consideration King Carl nodded his head approvingly and handed the crown back to Bortimer. “It is quite well made, my dear friend! The fabric is nearly perfect, and while the stones are clearly fake nobody will be able to tell unless they are able to examine it closely. It might be a little heavier than I remember my mother’s crown being, but it is close enough. Vika will find it pleasing enough I am sure!”

Thoroughly convinced that all was well, the King of Vlaanderen left Bortimer to arrange for the fake crown to be locked away safely in the vault and a better guard to be assigned to making sure this one didn’t get stolen as well. Prince Bortimer took this job seriously not only because King Carl thought him a friend and somebody that he could count on. He did it because this fake crown wasn’t a fake at all. It was the same crown he had stolen weeks ago to give as a gift to his dear friend Duchess Seraphina Thorngage of Maelonbourg. Now Bortimer was going to get a sizeable kickback on the cost of the crown that his personal jeweler would make, and all he had to do was wait until the coronation was over to take the stolen crown back to Seraphina. Because this crown would never be found if Bortimer could help it. It belonged to Seraphina and to Seraphina it would return. Vika would get a new crown and all of this would pass into legend and lore.