Interlude #4

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

It's King Tyros and Queen Amvicta, proving once again how messed up they both are.

King Tyros stood in his bedchambers as he put on his belt and best cape over his silk clothes.Dressing up like this annoyed him.Simple, functional, that was what was needed.Trying to fit the expectation of others wasted time and money.In theory the men and women of his castle, his kingdom, should adjust their behavior to match his.

That was not the way the world worked, though.So much of being a king was looking the part, acting like others expected a king to behave.He’d made efforts to introduce changes in uniforms and behaviors, cutting down on costs and needless ceremonies, but they kept creeping back in.Commoners, artisans and nobles all wanted life to be as it always had been.

Amvicta joined him in dressed in her finest gown and jewels.She looked pleased with herself, so there might be fewer incidents at court caused by her sharp tongue.“Everyone’s ready.”

“A moment longer,” he told her as he put on his crown.Once he’d owned several crowns, but during the civil war he’d sold the less valuable ones to pay his soldiers.Other kings would find that galling, a diminishment of their authority.To Tyros it had been a move long coming.Luxury was waste in his eyes.

Tyros and Amvicta left their room and headed for the courtyard.Guards followed them as always, but there were more defenders.Tyros had increased the castle’s defenses as of late in case his newest followers proved ambitious.These guardians followed at a distance, slipping into this world and back to their own so quickly few noticed them and none got a clear look.One guard glanced to his left and paused, catching the barest glimpse of his mystic defenders, then resumed marching.

“My father sent words of encouragement for this mission,” Amvicta said proudly.

“Palan is restoring a castle, not going on a quest,” Tyros grumbled.Meadowland was filled with ruined castles awaiting restoration or demolition.Fixing one should prove no difficulty, but Palan would no doubt make it harder than it had to be.

“Simple tasks must come before difficult ones.Giving your son a chance to prove himself has been a long time coming.He won’t disappoint you.”

“That would be a welcome change,” Tyros replied, earning him a scowl from Amvicta.

He didn’t care.His wife and sons had proven massive disappointments at every turn.That his father-in-law felt the need to speak on Palan’s behalf was all the more galling.Amvicta’s family constantly overstepped their bounds, acting as kings in his kingdom, offering counsel, as if they had a right to, and constantly seeking advantages at Tyros’ expense.

They reached a point where the castle corridor branched, and Tyros turned left.Amvicta grabbed his arm and demanded, “Where are you going?”

“To see to military matters.”

She scowled.“That revolting wizard?Your son and important men await you.”

“One of the advantages of being king is no one is more important than I am.”

Tyros marched on followed by his wife and guards.He reached the guest bedrooms where the Inspired wizard waited for him.Tyros had accepted the man as a necessary evil, something life was filled with, but he’d never trusted him.This room was well away from sensitive areas of the castle, and nearby servants were in fact highly trained and well-armed agents ready to kill the wizard should he step out of bounds.

“Wait here,” Tyros said, and entered the room.He didn’t knock.This castle and kingdom were his, and he could go where he pleased when he pleased without asking permission.Once inside he shut the door.Best if no witnesses were present for what was about to be said.

The room was simple, with a bed, table and chair.The man within was anything but.Hyress of the Inspired wore the white and black robes common to his order of wizards, and carried an oak staff.He had a book on the bed filled with notes in a language Tyros had never seen and diagrams the meaning of which Tyros couldn’t even guess at.Hyress was a young man of perhaps twenty years, his brown hair cut short, his features almost boyish, but his expression was a riddle.He always looked curious, like the world was somehow new no matter how simple a thing he looked at.Tyros expected the wizard to be furious at his sudden entrance, maybe afraid, but Hyress was unphased.

“You failed me.”As starting moves it was brutal and likely to cause discontent, but Tyros liked his enemies unsettled.

“The plan was high risk and high reward when I proposed it,” Hyress replied casually.“Failure was not merely possible but likely.Nothing of value was lost in the attempt, and more missions are planned for this week, next week and the week after that.Bascal will fall under the volume of assaults.”

“A bold claim when you have only five undertrained, underpowered wizards.Your order is known for the number of wizards they can send, if not their strength.When will more come?”

That was another calculated insult.Tyros knew the best way to beat an enemy was to push them hard and often, and Hyress was an enemy despite their current arrangement.Anyone fool enough to think they could take over the world was a madman, or a deadly threat.

“The Inspired have committed more wizards to your cause than they have anywhere else on Other Place,” Hyress said calmly.“If you want more then more must be offered, or at least paid.We have received nothing we asked as payment for our services.”

“You ask for garbage!” Tyros yelled.He wasn’t used to being unsure about someone, but he couldn’t make sense of Hyress.He’d expected Hyress to demand gold, jewels, noble titles.Instead the wizard had asked to be paid with worthless refuse that even a beggar would ignore.Why?No explanation had been offered.

“It is of value to us,” Hyress replied.“As our prize means nothing to you, all the more reason to give it to us.”

Tyros held his ground a moment longer.He despised Hyress and men like him.The world was filled with opportunists, graverobbers and scavengers looking for scraps during times of crisis.And curse him for even thinking it, Tyros needed this vulture of a man.

He needed victories.The war was progressing poorly.Kaleoth was untouched, safe behind Racehorse River.Bascal had closed the main pass into their kingdom.His armies struggled to open it and had lost two major assets sent to assist the effort.Only in Zentrix did his armies advance now that the ground was dry enough to walk on rather than sink in, but their losses were heavy and morale was low.Tyros needed to reverse this trend, and Hyress might be able to do it.

“How soon after payment can your fellow wizards come, and how many of them will arrive?” Tyros asked through clenched teeth.

“If full payment is made, I can have eight additional wizards in Meadowland within ten days.They will bring summoned monsters, magic weapons and funds sufficient to play an active role in your war for an entire year.”

Tyros reached for the doorknob.“You will have it by day’s end.You disappointed me once, wizard.Those who make a habit of failure suffer for it.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

“A question first.All the Inspired Wizards I’ve met wear uniforms of black and white.What is the significance of it?”

“White is commonly associated with goodness and black with evil,” Hyress replied.“We wear a blend of both white and black to show how we are above such thinking.Good and evil are childish concepts.There is only success or failure.Everything else is noise.”

“An interesting point of view,” Tyros told the wizard.It was one he agreed with.He’d survived a civil war, countless assassination attempts and constant challenges to his authority.He’d done what had to be done to survive.Good like the Brotherhood of the Righteous championed was weakness cloaked in dogma.The evil of bandits and monsters was needlessly destructive and heedless of the future.A king had to be decisive, brutal, confident and plan for the future.

That he agreed with Hyress sealed the man’s fate.Hyress would be equally decisive, brutal and confident, and he planned for a future where he ruled.If the time came when he thought he could overthrow Tyros, he would do so without pity or gloating.That meant the Inspired wizard and his fellow practitioners of the dark arts would have to die.Tyros would squeeze all the use he could from them and put them to death.

It was unfortunate, even a touch wasteful, but that was life.

Tyros rejoined his wife and guards outside the guest room and closed the door behind him.Amvicta gave him a sour look before complaining, “I don’t know what you tolerate that man in our castle.”

“Even serpents have their uses.”It was lost on her how that statement applied to her as much as the wizard.She would doubtless press her point, so to head off that argument he said, “With that settled we can move on to Palan.Restoring Grist Castle will take the rest of the year.If Palan succeeds there are other projects I can assign him.”

“Military tasks?” she asked hopefully.

Tyros would sooner put a goblin in charge of his armies than his spineless son.“Construction for now, military if he is and continues to be successful.As for Eskas—”

“We’re not talking about Eskas,” Amvicta interrupted.Her eldest son was no longer allowed in the castle, and she had no desire to see new punishments placed on his shoulders.

“You’re right.Palan has earned a chance to prove himself.We’ll see him on his way.”

They walked on in silence.The more Tyros thought about it, sending Palan on this task was a good idea.Palan had more failings than were acceptable in a man, much less a ruler, but he was clever.Rather like Mastram that way, always thinking.The boy might see what his father was planning.That wouldn’t do.Better to send him far from court, and when the time came deal with him alone.

They reached the courtyard to find Tyros’ court officials and resident nobles in attendance.It has a hot, sunny day, and the guests were sweating.Servants had hung pennants and banners to commemorate this dull event, and tables filled with refreshments had been set on the grassy field.Tyros and Amvicta stood on a low wood platform well away from their followers.Palan wasn’t present, waiting to be summoned and awarded royal orders.

“Announce the prince,” Tyros told an attendant.The man blew a horn, and Palan entered the courtyard from a gate opposite Tyros.He wore armor, as if he expected to fight, and was followed by a procession of soldiers.Those men were in their thirties and forties, competent but well past their prime.That met with Tyros’ approval.They could do the job asked of them without their absence being a drain on the military.Following them were hundreds of boys and young men.

Officially those callow youths were guests of the crown, to be protected and educated at royal expense.That lie fooled no one.They were the eldest sons of mayors from across Meadowland, men Tyros wasn’t entirely satisfied with.Their fathers had served him competently but without the enthusiasm.Replacing so many mayors would cause chaos and convince his officials they had to fear their king.This ensured the mayors’ cooperation, and served as a reminder to everyone there was a price to be paid for any slackening of support.

Palan bowed.“My father and my king, I come to serve.”

“Rise, Prince Palan,” Tyros replied.His son stood up straight.“You have sought royal command to rebuild Grist Castle for the good of Meadowland.This is granted.”

“I shall bring honor to your name and to Meadowland,” Palan replied.

That was doubtful, but Tyros went through with this tedious ceremony and handed a rolled up vellum scroll to his son.Palan accepted it and saluted, and the men with him saluted.Normally there would be a celebration or feast to commemorate assigning a prince a mission for the crown, but this deed was so minor Tyros had ordered it canceled.Palan hadn’t refused the move, some slight sign of maturity on his part.With this foolishness done, Palan led his meager force away, and good riddance to them all.

“You did the right thing,” Amvicta whispered to him.

Tyros watched his son leave.The boy was a waste, trash, a coddled child grown into a worthless man.When he died it would be no loss to Tyros or Meadowland, and that day was coming ever closer.

Tyros turned to his wife.“It was the logical choice.”

* * * * *

Palan stopped his small command late that night, far from the nearest house or witness.He had four hundred hostages, fifty older soldiers to guard them, ten wagons pulled by oxen, food and construction tools.It was enough.

Morale was high.Palan had hand-picked the soldiers, making sure these men knew the real meaning of honor and loyalty.They had served the crown long enough to see brutality masked as necessity, and been sickened by it.The hostages were in good cheer now that they were out of the capital.They knew some of Palan’s intensions and realized they were far from safety, but every step brought them closer to family and freedom.His soldiers fed them generous portions.They’d need their strength for the days ahead, and he’d made arrangements for more supplies along the way.

Palan sat at the edge of the camp away from the others.This small, desperate force under his command was in great danger.He knew this was their only chance, his only chance, but that was little consolation.If caught they would all be put to death.He’d made every effort to avoid such a fate.For months he’d been sending letters by means of discrete couriers to men and women he knew he could count on.He had friends in the kingdom who would risk their lives for him, if he could reach them.He’d also secured weapons and riches his father didn’t know about that could turn the tables in their favor.Would it be enough?

There was a rustling in the tall grass just off the road, and a horde of goblins emerged from cover.Some he recognized, others not.Thipins and Campots came up to him and shook his hand.

“You did it,” Thipins said proudly.

“The journey’s just begun, and father will have men watching us,” Palan told his friend.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of them,” Campots promised.“We brought friends.”

“So I see.”Palan studied the newcomers.Most were typical goblins, dirty, smelly, dressed in rags, but two were different.One wore a strange white coat and carried a finely made leather bag.The second was even stranger, wearing black and green clothing in the same style of the King of the Goblins, and armed with a wood club carved to look like a scepter.

“It’s good to have friends,” he told the goblins.“Until you came, I’d never had one.”

“It’s gonna be okay, kiddo,” Thipins promised.He gave Palan a reassuring pat on the arm.“You won’t be exiled like your half-brother.We won’t let that happen.”


Submitted: May 02, 2021

© Copyright 2021 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Deborah O'Carroll

Aaahhh! There are exciting things afoot with Palan's plans! :O I was not expecting any of this but I love it. And that ending line! Eep! Also Tyros and Amvicta both make my skin crawl--wow. XD Another great chapter! *day made*

Sun, May 2nd, 2021 1:16am

Author
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Glad you liked it. This will be the last interlude for this book. The next three chapters will be all Dana and Jayden.

Sat, May 1st, 2021 6:32pm

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