The King

Alaric sighed deeply, the pain from his crown barely noticable in his current state of mind, blood matted his black shoulder length hair. He had awoken from a dream of her again. A dream of the wonderous beauty; he felt too bereft to cry. Blood trickles were his only tears these days.

‘My lord?’ a small lovely voice said, fearful of interluding on his deep thoughts. He turned his grey-blue eyes on the the girl who had entered the throne room so silently.

‘Arith, you should not be here,’ he said, gently raising from the hard turquoise chair. The stone always felt as if it was leaching the pain from him somehow. The girl could not see and he feared she would stumble. What was he to do with her?

‘But my Lord I smell.. blood? I was worried.’ She stood there clasping her own hands as if she feared a reprisal for her compassion.

He stepped closer to her and hesitated before laying his hand on her. She was sixteen, and he had rescued her not less than a month ago. She started at his warm fingers, he cursed himself for scaring her.

‘You’re hurt!’ She gasped and reached her fingers to the blood.

‘Arith, I wear the crown of remorse today, as I do every feast day.’ he felt her trembling and led her to an elegant rose wood chair; he had not let them cover it in gold, much to the stewards’ horror. ‘You are cold!’ she had turned bone white, the crystal cloth round her eyes seemed to shine in contrast. Her red hair still barely covered her scalp. He would vow revenge for her but for now he would content himself with covering her in the thick purple brocade that made his cloak.

‘Arith, I think you should go to the Sisters to be trained.’

‘No!’ she whimpered and clutched at him. He hugged her back for reassurance but felt his own trouble, she could not stay. He would never betray Jarna, never have anyone other than his wife, his dearly loved wife. He squeezed the child in his arms to hard at that thought and worried he had bruised her. She was so young. He deserved the crown today more than he had at any point in the last 17 years.

‘Arith, the sight can be dangerous if you do not know how to use it!’ he pleaded but knew he would not send her away. He felt a calm with her there. A sense of peace he had not known for so long. Was that why the love wraith was visiting his dreams? Why each night he dreamt of his wife rising out of liquid metal and pulling him down to her?

‘I… I can’t leave you! Please?’ it was said as no more than a whisper, an utterence so wretched he could not bring himself to argue more.

‘Arith, I do not expect you to be my Soothsayer, you can go from here to any other Kingdom, you understand that?’ She nodded. He put a finger to her mouth to stop her talking, ‘if you want the ability kept secret I could organise a place for you to go. I know you are scared of it.’ She kissed his still rough fingers gently. Alaric, King of The Nations and Emperor of the Unseen, trembled and kissed her forehead gently. ‘I will not send you away if you do not want to go.’ He backed away from her slightly.

‘It is almost time for my audience to start arriving, do you… wish to stay?’ She smiled, it was an old smile in her young face, he shook his head to dislodge the thoughts of his wife. Then he called the steward to place the rose wood chair by his throne. The Steward looked taken aback for a moment and then a lewd grinned crossed it. Alaric glared, flaring his nostrils. His beard, streaked with two lines of auburn, made it look ferocious and the Steward mumbled an apology.

Alaric was a tall broad man and the blood from the crown of remorse made him seem more regal, more formidable, especially to those lesser lords and Knight at Arms who knew of his prowess in battle. Another purple cloak was found for him and draped over his blue water silk tunic; there were gold filigree edges on everything. He had been conspiring to to get rid of it for ten years now and not once had his ploys worked. A ruby studded armband was placed upon his arm. The lines on it showed a map only a World Walker could read. The Sword of Enu was reverently handed to him, the saphire eyes glinted in the light – the sword felt the girls presence as much as he did. He sat upon the turquoise throne and felt the cold stone even through the thick leggings he wore under the tunic. He rested the sword against his knee and allowed a red ruby medalion to be placed upon him. It was a heart stone and pulsed to its own pattern; he had never worked out what it’s purpose was, but the sun emblem above his head began to glitter and hum.

It was time.

The big doors to the throne room were opened and the Lords of the Land stepped in. Twelve Lords, with him as the Thirteenth. Twelve Lords for twelve nations, nations he was the King of. They were dressed in rich strong colours but no-one dared wear the purple or blue like he did. They bowed to him and sat in the first semicircle of stone benches, which were of course, covered with gold.

Only then did the Lesser Lords appear at the door. There were 30 of these and they belonged to his own nation Oph; this was not a full council, so no other lesser lords were in attendence. They were dressed in muted versions of the Lords’ clothes, with silver filigree. They sat down after bowing and were followed by the Minor Lords, 120 men (well, actually it was 119 men, and Isabelle his sister), who were not Lords as such but the heads of industry; they tended to not be based in one nation as such as the skills their trades offered were needed all over. They tended to turn up to all meetings whether they were compulsory or not.

They were dressed in the same finery as the Minor Lords, just with embroidered borders showing the industry each represented. It took awhile for them to settle. The Deacons came next, 19 representing the various religons and sects of the Kingdom. Wizards, Soothsayers and other magiks were all welcome, if with a wariness, but seldom turned up. The Sheriffs came next along with the Knights at Arms. And last but in the Kings mind definatley not least, came the people, anybody who had a quarrel or upset or wanted to pay homage to the King. Some of them had been queing for three days, he knew. He could only see so many people, especially on a feast day.

As they were settling filling up all remaining seats – the girl started, he turned his head to her, ‘another comes’ she whispered to him. But the effect of her had been lost on the audience. He realised too late that he should have ordered another cloak for her, it was more than to be hoped that others would not jump to conclusions. She was wearing a royal cloak.

A whisper filled the room. ‘Do not close the door’ he ordered and prayed she would be right, though who could be important enough for him to wait, and then the nagging thought that purhapse it was not a plea to wait but rather a warning and he should be bolting the doors against some invader. He would get her training, he would keep her with him.

To calm himself he scanned those in the room and noted that a young acolyte with a Decon. He scowled at that, no request had been made and the boy should be sat back with the people. He was pondering on how to tackle the issue, which amounted to a large discurtesy, when the first Wizard Alaric had ever actually seen entered. He was… an old man in long flowing robes, gold and silver and copper symbols covered him. He had a long curling beard with singed patches. A conical hat with a flipped up rim made to match the robe. The King had to use all his poise not to laugh but then he saw it, a miasmer, a shimmer there, sort of orbiting the wizard.

‘Steward, get the Sage a seat,’ the King ordered. A large heavy carved seat with precious stones set in it was found and placed at the side of the semi circle of stone benches. The doors were closed and the audience began.

A group of girls laid flowers at his feet explaining they were from a dance school that had no money and that they would soon be homeless, he requested they dance that evening at the feast and that he would then decide their fate. A man with a broken nose had a complaint of brutality from a knight at arms; Alaric refered him to the Chief Sheriff, a Lady in rags tearfully told of how destitute she was he stared at her and to everyone’s amazement pulled his hand down her top, coming out with a heavy madalion that could have fed any family for years.

‘I call you fraud!’ he spoke them as a curse of sorts.

The girl stirred next to him, ‘more so my lord she is a murderess and thief.’

‘Witch!’ the woman screamed, lunging for Arith; dirty nails raked down the girls cheek before anyone could intercede.

‘Steward to the dungeon with her and get the girl out of here and to Niomi,’

‘No my Lord I must stay with you! Please?’ she was holding a cloth to her cheek – he realised with a start it was the steward’s silk kerchief.

‘Steward, bring Niomi here.’ He scanned the room, whispers were reaching a strange frequency. The woman had announced Arith a witch – that could be dangerous if it was not managed properlly. ‘I beg your patience but my soothsayer is young and not yet fully trained, and now she is injured.’ A calm settled.

A soothsayer, a blind soothsayer? They were things of legends but then so was the King wasn’t he? And what of the robe? Was he planning or had he already married her?

What about his wife? Is the girl not a bit young? and so on.

The audience continued with the normal state of order until his sister stepped forward, he nodded at her. ‘Depletion has begun.’ They locked eyes.

‘What rate?’ he asked.

‘Faster than it should be, it is unnatural.’

‘We will hold a closed council, go now and call the metallurgists, Earth Walkers and Farmers. Miners?’ A broad muscular man with pick axes worked in red thread stood.

‘Yes my Lord?’

‘Have you noticed depletion?’

Startled, the man nodded. ‘Then you to must fetch your top people and tell the Water Dosers.’ The man nodded and bowed and followed his sister out of the main chamber. He looked at the Wizard, whose eyes just seemed to glint within folds of wrinkeled flesh.

‘The boy knows,’ Arith whispered.

‘Acylyte!’ he shouted; a panic had begun to build in his rib cage. The boy with the Deacon looked up, pale and scared he stumbled out of his seat. In his hurry the boy knocked off his round skull cap of a hat, but his master ushered him onwards to the King rather than allowing him to try and retreive it. He was finely dressed for an acolyte and bowed formally to the King. Alaric tried not to grit his teeth, this was a noble born, something he himself was not, and something that many would rather he remembered.

To everyone’s suprise the Wizard stood, ‘Alus?’

The boy nodded, ‘then you have worked the Orcal’ the boy flushed the affirmative. There was a stir amongst the deacons.

‘The… the… animals do it sir,’ he stuttered.

‘Master thought I should come and tell you sir,’

‘Tell me what?’

‘That it is all changing sir, lots of things sir and you.. you are central as is your wife.’

There was an uproar from the crowd.

‘Enough!’ Roared the King, ‘this will go to closed council the day after tomorrow, this boy and the Wizard shall be there at my request. As for my wife..’ a dark smile made his face harsh for a moment. ‘I doubt she will be joining us, boy.’

‘But the Orcel clearly states it my.. my Lord.’

‘Boy my wife has been dead for 17 years.’ Remembrance of the love wraith chilled him.

Posted: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 @ 11:38 pm
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