Interlude 1

Reads: 80  | Likes: 2  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 3

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
I've done a lot of Dana and Jayden stories without them ever meeting or even seeing the king and queen behind all their troubles. I thought it would be interesting to do a few very short stories showing what the royal couple is like and what they're up to.

Submitted: January 05, 2020

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 05, 2020

A A A

A A A


The king and queen strolled down a castle hall escorted by eight soldiers. In most castles so many bodyguards would be excessive bordering on paranoid, but after five assassination attempts the king took no chances.Normally the king kept busy at such an early hour with the endless paperwork of his job, but today he and his queen had to be in the throne room after they were done with breakfast.The day promised to be busy, with four noblemen seeking an audience, an update from his army commanders by way of magic mirror, and representatives of the dwarf corporation Golem Works expected later in the day.

No couple could pose a bigger contrast.The king was a man in his early fifties, still strong and handsome to behold.His black hair showed hints of gray, and there were wrinkles at the corner of his eyes, but otherwise he looked younger than his years.His clothes were the finest furs and silks over magic chain armor, and he never traveled without three magic weapons.

His wife was his junior by twelve years and looked even younger than that. Her dress was the finest silk dyed golden yellow, her long hair expertly combed and styled, her jewelry the finest gold, and none of it was enough.Her face was etched in a permanent scowl, the look of the outraged who couldn’t strike at the source of their annoyance.It marred what should have been legendary beauty.

They turned a corner and passed the castle library.The king didn’t break his stride, but his eyes lingered on the door. He hadn’t entered the library in twenty years.When he needed a book, he had a servant bring it to him.The room reminded him of his long-departed son.There had been times when the boy would spend every waking hour there for weeks, learning of the ancient past, preparing for his tutor’s tests, or simple reading for the love of it.The king recalled having to send meals to the boy, and wondering if he should add a bed to the room.It was—

“You’re doing it again,” the queen said sourly.

The king didn’t look at her as he continued walking.“I am allowed to recall happier times.”

“Brooding over the past helps no one.Prince Mastram is dead and gone twenty years.”

“Twenty-one.”

The queen’s scowl deepened.“How long must you deify a boy unworthy of your attention even when he was alive, and totally beneath your attention now that he’s gone?”

The king was sorely tempted to grit his teeth, to return her scowl, anything to show his displeasure, but such a response would be the act of a lesser man. He’d had many conversations like this with his wife, to the point that it was almost expected, except she usually showed the good sense to entertain this foolishness when they were alone. He trusted his bodyguards, but even loyal men could talk after they’d had a difficult day or too much to drink. His wife should have the sense to understand that.

“I desire privacy,” he told them.His bodyguards fell back enough that they couldn’t hear the royal couple’s conversation but close enough to come in case of danger.He didn’t look at his wife when he said, “We are to have guests soon.Speak your piece now, for I won’t tolerate this in front of others.”

The queen took his arm.“This is madness.You want to be respected, yet anyone with working eyes can see you longing for a past both gone and dead.It’s time and energy wasted.How much longer must this farce continue?”

The king was a practical man who had mastered his emotions long ago.Loss and pain had seared away much of his feelings. That gave him the strength to not slap the queen.Instead he spoke words no less brutal.

“You knew how deeply I loved my first wife before we were wed.Only her death separated us.The marriage between you and I was political when it began and remains so today.Then as now, we need each other, nothing more.You have earned my respect, grudgingly, but nothing you have done has earned my love.I don’t expect that to change.”

He continued before she could reply.“Your family’s soldiers and fortune helped end the civil war, and I honored their demand to marry you.That was all our relationship was, a transaction.Any chance for it growing into something more meaningful ended long ago when your family made more demands, and more, and more beyond those.You spite me every chance you get and wonder why I am cold to you?You wonder why I fondly recall a wife who cared for me, her family making no demands?”

“They demanded nothing and offered nothing!”The queen took her hand away from him.“What chance did I ever have?Your true love keeps your heart, and in death can make no mistakes and have no flaws.I’ve spent half my life competing with a dead woman for a live man’s attention.”

“You are ever careful to omit your own many failings,” he noted.“How many have you destroyed when your temper flared? How many times did I have to rein in your vengeance?I’ve lost count of the court members, lesser nobles and even castle staff ruined for failing to avoid your ire.You wield your authority like an ogre swinging a club.”

“A queen is owed respect.You protest me defending my good name and position, but no one else will, present company included.”

“Lie to yourself if it pleases you, but not to me.I’ve seen the pleasure you take in inflicting punishment on others. You revel in their pain and humiliation. It is a flaw that makes more enemies with every passing year, forcing me to work harder to ensure obedience from my followers.I’d exclude you and your sharp tongue from more meetings, if only I could without your family protesting.”

The queen stopped walking and turned to face her husband.“If you have no care for me, have some for your children. You have sons still alive, both desperate to earn your favor, to prove themselves to you, yet you trust neither with high office or even let them attend court meetings.You haven’t even named one as crown prince!Bad enough I contend with the memories of a dead woman, must our sons compete against a boy you sent to his death?”

“An execution you and your family demanded as the price for their help in my hour of need.I did as I must, but never think I did so out of hatred for him or love for you.As for our offspring, one is a brute and the other a fool.I give them no positions of importance or trust them with secrets because they are incapable of handling either.Our sons have proven themselves Prince Mastram’s lesser at every opportunity.In Prince Mastram’s short life he did more that the pair of them have done in twice as long.”

“And were he alive today, Mastram—”

“Prince Mastram,” he corrected her.“I satisfied your clan’s bloody desires by denouncing him as illegitimate, but in the privacy between us I can call him my son and a prince.”

The queen rolled her eyes.“Prince Mastram lived in a world of books.He was small, weak, timid, hiding behind a scholar and a jester.He held to ideals no one could live by, much less rule by.That’s the son you lionize.”

The king nodded grudgingly.“He was a scholar at heart.In times of peace he would have ruled justly, but he lacked the courage and strength for war.”

“You started a war he’d never stomach.”The queen put her hands on her hips.“You’ve always prided yourself on being practical, doing what had to be done. Be practical now.You need an heir ready for your position when you die, or all you’ve done is for nothing.You have two sons, and given how cold our marriage has become there will never be another to pick from.One or the other, husband.”

The king allowed himself a slight smile.“Planning my funeral so soon?”

“No man is promised tomorrow,” she countered.“Death comes for all men, and only a fool doesn’t prepare for his own end.”

“True,” the king admitted.He’d long been taking powerful potions to slow his aging, and more to grant him resistance to exotic poisons used by assassins.That plus his skill in battle and loyal followers should put off the grave long enough to set the kingdom on a solid foundation, but life came with no guarantees.

What the queen never seemed to understand, or anyone else for that matter, was that the specter of death was what drove the king so hard.He had only so much time left, and so much to do to save a kingdom filled with enemies within and without.His lands were ever on the knife’s edge between prosperity and annihilation.Mercy, love, tolerance, those were the luxuries of the safe and secure.What were those ‘virtues’ compared to the lives of countless people?He did what he had to do for their survival as much as for his own.

The queen’s expression softened, and her tone was more compassionate than it had been in months.“Will our children never have your respect the way your dear prince did?Will you never give them your heart as a father should?”

“I give nothing.If they want my favor, have them earn it.On the training grounds, in their studies, in lesser court functions where I tolerate their presence, tell them to perform to expectations and I will reconsider my opinion of them.Make them prove we have not sired idiots.Whatever you do, don’t tell them their ascension to the throne is assured, for I will let a stranger not of my bloodline take my crown before I give it to one unworthy.”

The king continued to the throne room without giving his wife another glance. “We have delayed long enough. Come, my queen.Business demands our presence.You may deal with our sons after more important work is completed. For your sake I hope you succeed. The days ahead will be difficult enough without their continued buffoonery.”


© Copyright 2020 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply