Interlude #3

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A glimpse into the life of King Tyros and Queen Amvicta, which is as filled with backstabbing and treachery as you'd expect.

“This is a new disaster,” Queen Amvicta said.She had the good sense to speak quietly when there were so many witnesses, but King Tyros still frowned.Formal banquets like this were part of being king.This was a large one with over a hundred court members, noblemen and other notables.It wouldn’t do to unsettle them.

In other kingdoms such banquets would be an opportunity for developing comradery with followers and encouraging their efforts.Not here.Tyros had no sense of fellowship with the men who served him.They were doing a job, nothing more, and if they failed were replaced.Instead Tyros used the meal as another opportunity to read reports and issue written orders.Paperwork was staggering, and the war vastly increased the workload.This meal began with a stack of paper four inches tall, and Tyros had only gotten through half of it.

King Tyros looked over a report from one of his spies while he ate.The meal was filling if too rich for his liking.Cakes, roast duck, sugared fruit, and there were more courses to come.Food was for sustenance, and this use of spices and sugars a needless expense.“Which one?Your cousin’s failures, the slow progress against Zentrix, or the army stalled at Kaleoth’s border?”

Amvicta gave him a sour look.The two of them were alone at their table at the head of the hall, placing the nearest person thirty feet away.That gave them some privacy, but they still had to keep their tone low to avoid eavesdropping.“Vander’s problems are your making.You sent that walking abomination to him.”

“Flawed tools are all I have.Vander was told to be subtle using Victory’s Edge.Instead his poor security resulted in the wizard’s death.”

Amvicta scowled before dabbing her bread in a honey sauce.“There was never going to be anything subtle about using that foreigner.You heard what he does to men.”

“That’s why Vander was instructed to use his magic on the gladiators.We wouldn’t have to pay them once they were dead, or deal with their insubordination.It would have been a force equalizer after losing the stone and timber golems.”

Tyros and Amvicta fell silent when a servant cleared away their empty dishes.Tyros would have to skip a meal tomorrow after such overeating.There was still a lot of food on the table, wasteful in Tyros’ opinion, but people were watching.If the king didn’t eat well they’d think something was wrong, possibly that he was sick.

Their guests were only too happy to gorge.Richly dressed, wearing jewelry and eating like hogs at a trough, it was hard not to hold them in contempt.Tyros was willing to forgive some of them when they worked hard, but for most of them it was gluttony, plain and simple.Sadly that included his sons.Palan was indulging in his usual behavior, chatting with servant girls and feasting on sweets.“Must he act like a child?”

Amvicta followed his gaze and rolled her eyes.“He’s a young man with a youth’s appetite, and not an ounce of fat on him.As for talking with the staff, that wasn’t a sin last I checked.”

Eskas was as bad.The older of Tyros’ sons was stronger after years of regular combat training.He ate like a horse because he worked like one.Sadly he was nearly as smart as one.Brutish, uncultured, arrogant, he was Palan’s opposite yet managed to be just as much a failure in his own way.The surly, dark haired young man kept his eyes on his parents.

Amvicta broke his line of thought when she handed him a sheet of paper.“Since you brought him up, Palan has submitted a proposal for repairing Grist Castle.”

Tyros wiped his hands off on a towel and took the paper.He expected worthless drivel in keeping with all Palan’s ideas, but this had some merit.The boy must be learning, or had someone coach him.“It uses manpower on hand and keeps costs down.The timetable is reasonable, too.I’ll look over it in more detail tonight.”

Amvicta looked pleased that one of her sons had done something right for once.Tyros was merely surprised they hadn’t let him down again.Heaven above, what had he done to earn such weak, stupid offspring?Even Mastram had showed little potential, hiding away in the castle library, mourning the dead instead of moving on.Tyros had loved the boy as much as he’d able to after so much pain and loss, but Mastram had been a scholar when his father needed a warrior.Losing him had hurt, a pain that cropped up in dark times, but it was a necessity rather than a tragedy.If Mastram had been a stronger son the loss would have been greater.

“I was referring to this,” Amvicta said tartly.She pointed to a report from their forces near Zentrix.

Tyros had already read the report.“And?”

“The hunting party we sent after the Sorcerer Lord failed.Five dangerous men went out.Two are dead, two more sort of dead.How does someone become sort of dead?”

Tyros had seen such horrors during the civil war that little surprised him regarding death.“One is a ghost and the other is immortal.He will already be reborn in fire and screams, somewhere or other.I’m told he could return ten feet from where he died or a thousand miles away.”

“They failed.”It was surprising to see Amvicta admit her blunders.She must be emboldened by the fact that Tyros had agreed with her, making it their failure and not hers alone.

“They succeeded,” he replied.“We sent them to find and kill Jayden.They found him, an impressive feat few have even tried.This gnome, Bargle, claims responsibility for locating the Sorcerer Lord, and he isn’t among the dead.He succeeded once, he can do so again, but this time at the head of a larger, stronger, better equipped force.”

Amvicta looked shocked.“You’re not angry?”

Tyros pointed at the report with a knife.“The people we lost were strong but could only be used in limited situations.Those that died were the worst of the lot, and the other two hardly better.We lost nothing that mattered while proving the plan can work.This Bargle fellow, pay him a hundred silver coins and offer a hundred times that when he finds Jayden again.”

Amvicta looked more thoughtful.“Who do we send?The Kaleoth expedition can afford to send a hundred men, no loss when they’re just sitting around eating our food.”

Tyros handed her a letter.“I had someone different in mind.”

His queen’s eyes opened wide as she read it.“The Inspired?”

“Wizards should know how to kill wizards, and these ones will be motivated by lust for knowledge.Jayden knows secrets of the Sorcerer Lords they’ll want for themselves.”

“These are incredibly dangerous men you’re inviting into the kingdom.They’re schemers of the worst kind and will stab us in the back the first chance they get.”

It was tempting, so very tempting to say, ‘Then you should feel comfortable around them,’ but he bit back the harsh response.Tyros had known the risk his wife posed to him even on their wedding day.She wanted her sons on his throne as badly as her clan did.They had waited patiently for him to die so they could take over his kingdom, barely hiding their desire to seize his crown.

He wondered briefly if she understood how much of what he was doing was to hold back that day.The compromises, secret agendas, backroom deals, the atrocities, it kept Meadowland Kingdom whole and healthy, but it also kept Tyros on his throne.Was it enough?He didn’t know.He knew all kings faced the same risks and did no less than he did to hold power.His wife’s clan would take his place in a second if they thought they could.

Tyros shook himself out of his musings.There wasn’t time for doubts.He resumed his meal and was about to pick up another letter when he saw Eskas still staring at him and Amvicta.His son’s eyes narrowed.“Eskas is about to act foolishly again.”

The signs were plain to see.Eskas was as subtle as a charging bull and showed the same poor judgement.He’d beaten sparing partners near to death, ridden horses so hard they had to be put down, insulted any man close enough to hear regardless of their rank, yet thought himself entitled to the throne.He was breathing harder and threw his knife and fork on the table instead of setting them down.

Amvicta wiped off her hands on a towel and stood up.“I’ll deal with this.”

The queen had barely risen from her seat when Eskas got up and marched to his parents’ table.He had a determined look on his face and pushed aside servants between him and his target.Men across the room noticed and stopped eating.Palan noticed the scene, and for a change made no effort to save his brother from embarrassment.That wasn’t surprising given how often he’d failed to save Eskas from himself.

“My son, there is work for you when the banquet is over,” Amvicta began.She had years of experience mollifying her two failures.The most effective was to give them something to do in the hopes it would earn their father’s approval.This time it didn’t work.

“My father and king, I must speak with you.”Eskas was loud enough for everyone to hear him.Guests looked away, some whispering to one another.

“This is not the time to discuss family affairs,” Tyros replied, his voice calm, cool, commanding.His son no doubt thought he could press his case harder and face lighter punishments by having witnesses to his petition.

“It’s never the time!I have waited years for you to name me crown prince and your successor.That day has never come.Every king within a thousand miles names their eldest son as their successor once he is old enough to hold a sword.I have strived to prove my value to you and my ability to rule Meadowland.How much more must I do?How much longer must I wait for what is mine?”

Amvicta winced at her son’s harsh tone.Public scenes like this were terrible for morale and would be cause for talk across the kingdom.She looked at Tyros with an expression that practically begged for leniency.She got none.

Tyros stood up.“I wouldn’t tolerate this disrespect from anyone, least of all my son!You demand honors when time and again you have proven unworthy of them.”

“You give me no chance to prove myself!How many times have I asked for command of an army?”

“You’ve never proven capable of leading a squad and you want an army?What man would follow an untested leader known for being stubborn and easily enraged?The very fact that you approach me like this without permission and in front of witnesses proves your unworthy.”

“What more must I do?” Eskas screamed.

Tyros pointed at his son.“You can start by not making a public spectacle of yourself!Show proper respect and humility, and wait.”

Not finished, Tyros snatched up a paper off his table.Eskas had gone too far and deserved punishment for the offense.“Prince Palan, rise and approach.”

Palan had been watching the scene with the tired resignation of one who’d often seen such squabbles and was embarrassed to have his family’s dirty laundry being aired.That disappeared quickly and he marched up to his father.

“Your plan to restore Grist Castle has earned my approval.”Tyros had intended to scrutinize the proposal for error.No longer.Giving anything to Palan was punishing Eskas, reason enough to agree.“You have two weeks to make preparations.Go, and prove your place at my side.”

“I obey my father and my king,” Palan said and saluted.

“No!” Eskas screamed.“This is not about him!”

“Leave the hall and return to your quarters,” Tyros said, his voice cold.“You may go willingly or be carried out, but you are leaving.”

Eskas stood his ground for a few seconds before he left, his face red and his hands clenched into fists.Tyros watched him go before gesturing for Amvicta to join him.She gave a long suffering sigh, humiliated by her eldest son.Tyros glared at his guests before addressing them.

“If word of this debacle spreads outside this room, I will learn of it and punish those responsible.”

The rest of the meal was held in silence.Tyros finished eating and left, disgusted with his family and his kingdom.The deeds he had done, the pain he had endured, and it never ended.There was a slender chance, a sliver of bright light in the distance that gave him hope he could get through this disaster.It kept him going, and kept him from exacting a terrible vengeance on the fools who surrounded him.

* * * * *

Prince Palan left the hall later alongside his father’s followers.Normally there would be conversations, but everyone remained silent after Eskas’ embarrassing outburst.Palan was silent for another reason.He dared not trust his tongue when his feelings were so strong.The men around him were suspicious by nature and would notice anything out of place.If he sounded too excited, too happy, they’d sense it.They might attribute a change in Palan’s behavior to stress after his brother’s meltdown or elation at his opportunity to prove himself, but he couldn’t risk it.

Palan returned to his room and paced like a caged tiger.Night couldn’t come fast enough, and his heart beat like a hammer at being forced to wait.Only when he was sure the guards were changing shifts and the servants were asleep did he sneak out of his room and head deep into the castle.He found an entrance to the sewers.

Two goblins slipped out of the shadows to meet him.The first had tanned skin, long messy hair, dirty clothes and spikes jutting from his shoulders.The second was spear bald, had turquoise colored skin and a coil of rope wrapped around his ratty clothes.

“Well?” the one with spikes asked.

Palan sat on the floor so he could look his friends in the eyes.“It worked, Thipins!” 


Submitted: January 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Deborah O'Carroll

Oooooh...! How interesting! Haha, the king and queen are a mess. XD But oh no, they have plans against Jayden! :O And ooh, I'm even more curious about Palan now!

Sat, January 23rd, 2021 6:02pm

TheresaVan18

Hmm, Queen Amvica's son is friends with goblins . . . a turn I didn't expect at all!

Thu, February 25th, 2021 3:24am

Author
Reply

I did mention he talks with them in an earlier interlude.

Thu, February 25th, 2021 6:01am

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