CHAPTER 132: THE THRONE THAT IS PROMISED
Eventually, All things decline, Everything falters, dies and end, Towers cave in, wall collapse, Roses wither, horses stumble, Cloth grows old, men expire, Nothing made by hand will last,
I understand the truth, that all must die,
Both clerk and lay, And the fame of men now dead, Will quickly be forgotten, Unless the clerk takes up his pen, And bring their deeds to life again,
The New Year came with breeze as Vangua have just win the war in Freya. Now the size of Vangua has doubled possessing the power to pose a threat to the rest of the continent.
This is what the Duchess of Arrandy worries about and has been trying to protect Arrandy interest as their trade to the South is temporarily halted.
The Four families, Dondoglio, Giovanni, Giotto and Botticelli have all been forced to flee for their lives.
Their slave army is destroyed leaving the once proud Principality of Freya a barren wasteland with hundreds of villages and a hundred more cities burn and sacked to the ground by the relentless assault of Harald the Vanquisher as he is known in the land of Vangua.
This is the year where everything will change as Silas prophesized. As late as winter of last year, Edward was still well enough for him to engage in activities of the court.
He still uses intellect and cunningness for his position to be strong and sending Harald to battle and at the same time reconcile his difference with the Orleans family.
As he grows older year by year he began to see the lord of Arrandy as a threat and he need to have countermeasure for that.
It is clear to Edward that this young lord has unbridled ambition, and an appetite of a dragon.
One day if left unchecked, that same Arial that once protect him might be the same person that will devour him.
His health deteriorated rapidly. Even though Amelie has been released from the nunnery and has been in the castle since their last altercation the King of Vangua is left with no heir to his kingdom.
Knowing his death is near, his title Edward the Saint…finally shine through.
He began sending alms to the poor, forgive his old enemies, and began ridding himself of Arrandian influence in his court which drew Harald to respect the King and begun making more and more frequent trips to the castle of Caen.
As one of the great leader of the continent, and having an aspiration to outclass the young Arrandian lord he began constructing the Southern Church of Saint Lazare.
He has lavished great fortunes, his last offering to the God of Light, drawing appreciation from the common folk and nobles alike.
The church itself is close to the Caen Castle, a stunning tribute to god…an act of pride rather than piety.
He knows he will not be alive to see the completion but history will remember him. The largest church in the human continent, rivaling that of the City of Holies.
A few months since the construction of the church he began suffering the more painful bouts of his illness.
He became bedridden, yet stable in power.
‘His reign is a short one but one that will be remembered’ some of the nobles voices this opinion during his absence. The others nodded in agreement.
In his reign the total area of Vangua doubled with Freya under them now. But even though Freya is no longer, the army is tired and there are many casualties in both sides.
And there is still plot bubbling all around the continent with growing worry and restlessness pervaded to every man of importance in the continent.
If not for the suggestion of Harald to persuade the insurrection of slaves and promise them of their freedom, to be given a citizenship of Vangua, they might take years of fighting the 4 families.
The slave who has seen the freedom, at least the sense of freedom, for no one is free during this period…something always bound them whether by oath or by power.
Edward prodigious piety shines once more as he did not renounce on his promise and truly granted the former slaves their freedom to be the citizen of the proud and mighty Vangua.
But even in his dying day’s one could show he longs to be with his kinsmen embrace, Caelum.
For all his worries and unease of the young lord in Arrandy, one could see the church design as Arrandian, a grand imitation of the Church of St Asisi in Acro, with its characteristic round-topped arches and clean, elegant lines resembling that great church of the great city of the Human Continent.
But the church Edward envisioned is even longer, larger and even more impressive. Five bays of the nave are already completed thanks to the prodigious skill of the Seren architect and Asteros hires.
It was during 67 Seedmonth 2021 King Edward the Saint, the King of Vangua breathed his last breath and died in the company of Harald, his wife and few other great men.
In the morning the news spread like a wildfire throughout the human continent and many nobles who are at the time near the border of Vangua rush to see the King bodies and join the funeral procession.
It is noted, that whatever enmity between the Orleans, Harald and Edward, it have been resolved as he returned back the land and even gifted Harald more land after their almost civil war.
He was to be borne at the Church of St Diana the Apostle. The King body is completely wrapped in a dark yellow binding, lies on its die lifeless as an empty vessel.
Ten men of great renown, each one of great noble families, performing the rites, holding, shouldering the poles, two other figures ring hand bells at the sides.
The solemn atmosphere is accompanied by a dirge chanted out by a group of clerics at the rear of the funeral procession.
Men great and low, good and evil bore the remains of the Saint King into the house of God. His wife Amelie sobbed and cries during his death but now calm and collected and with the cleric by special permission offered up prayers and sighs and psalms all that day and the following night.
One that can also be seen in this company is Harald Alan, drawing the attention of the other nobles.
All the time Harald was praying he think of the man…..of the Saint King…and whether history and the stars will remember him.
From what Harald could see in his journey back, there is genuine lamenting in his passing.
On the whole, he seemed to have been dignified, dutiful to his country and pious to the church and he belonged to one of the ancient lineage of Vangua just like him.
But was he truly wise?, Harald muse in his head while around him the prayers are still given and offered.
Beneath that pious exterior, behind his kind smile, and wistful gaze, was he truly an enigma?
During his first reign, he was weak and ineffectual king, forever under the domination of the powerful nobles and yet upon once again seizing power, he acted with great courage, and with great risk of losing, if not always in the effect he desired.
Emilia understands this Harald thought. Truly….Edward is no weakling. Rather than that, it was his position that is weak.
It is by this understanding of the inner struggle of the King that Emilia and him reached the king hand, accept the King as the King also shows an openness to forget old enmity.
It was pragmatic of Edward to ally with one of his most vile enemies. And wise of Emilia to accept it and cement Orleans and Alan influence in the kingly court.
Surely one day, people of Vangua will look at Edward legacy, his rule and his effort with fondness and nostalgia.
But there seems to be something that is still nagging in Harald mind.
The King in exchange for peace and stability has used his childlessness as a diplomatic tool…..that Harald had to admit very potent in acquiring alliances and extracting promises.
In the course of the King life he has dangled the prospect of the succession in front of to many people, the family of Botticelli in Freya, the King of Zettel and the most formidable of them all…the dragon that still sleeps in the Northern side of Vangua. And one last person……himself.
Harald understand his logic but he doesn’t have to like it. Of course during the King life, he kept this various power friendly while he lived but he should have realized he is storing up immeasurable problems for the future.
Duke Arial, for one, had indicated even though he acts subtly, that he is serious in this matter.
Harald understand the problem that lies in front of him if he were to take the throne that is promised to him.
It mattered not that the King of Vangua had since changed his mind…this… Harald had no doubt. Arial believe that the throne is promised to him, and so does the other Arrandians envoys.
To make matter worse, people knows that Arial has help him in that last crisis thus enforcing the opinion that Harald is a vassal of Arial, a notion fanned by that snake.
Harald calm himself down. He looked and he could see Amelie is still offering prayers to her dead husband.
She is loyal to her husband and pious in her nature so resembling the King…the only vice she had is her lack of wiles like her sister….or is that a blessing? Harald wondered.
The other nobles also take glances to Harald.
After all after this prayer is done, a new King will emerge from the very same church that the last king of Vangua is laid to rest.
A FEW HOURS EARLIER
The billowing curtains blows slowly. Amelie pulled open the curtains and tied it back so that it will give his husband a little air to breath in his dying breath.
Edward is panting….barely alive and in great pain. On his deathbed he looked at the ceiling, a wearisome, weakening man, waiting for Death to blow his kiss to him.
Death comes to all, he realized. Kings or commoners. It comes to all. But today…it comes for the King. The Hooded Man will be taking his soul today to either the High Heaven or Oblivion.
Amelie, held me up the King said with a voice resembling a whisper. Amelie took one of the cushions and support the back of the King so he sits up and speak.
Amelie is somber in her expression, seated at the foot of the bed after supporting his husband back.
There is one Priest who is leaning over to the King to catch the King’s words. Amelie then sit on the floor, warming the king feet in her lap, her brother in law Harald is also present, Robert the steward of the royal palace also Priest Stigrand is also in the bedchamber still leaning and trying to interpret the King wishes.
They are all ready to hear the last wishes of the King. They are being addressed by their dying king.
For days Edward has been drifting out of consciousness. These few days Edward would awaken briefly, mumble something unintelligible and then fall once more under the shadow of a long sleep.
However this day he woke up, and then he spoke to Amelie with a clear and healthy voice with fear in his tone, sweating in his forehead of the dream he had.
He dreams of a black dragon with red eyes that came to Vangua with fire and steel.
‘Beware of the Black Dragon. Beware of his fiery breath, his crimson eyes, his sharp claws. He….will shake this world to the core, a reckoning to cleanse the world of our sins’
The Priest, Harald, his wife and the other gathered around the bedchamber were sore afraid and stupefied and silence hangs in the air from the effect of terror when they heard him speak of this dire prophecy.
The Priest is seen visibly shaken, the first to be afraid and he said to Harald
‘The King is broken with disease and knew not what he said’ he said as he whispered to the others, consoling himself as he console others.
Then Edward looking at his wife with misty eyes as he lay dying, a soft expression that shocked the people who know well of the King duplicitous nature and received by Amelie the same way, an affection of a husband and a wife and then he looked at Harald with a stern and rigid , a regal bearing of a King impression.
Edward stretch forth his hand to Harald and said
“I…. commend Queen Amelie and all the Kingdom under your protection” the King said then suddenly the King voice then fell silent and he faltered slowly with a smile on his face and died on that very bed before he could make himself more clear with his word.
There is an eerie ambiguity in Edward word. Is Edward bequeathing the Kingdom to Harald?
Or is he saying that Harald should acts as protector and regent for the young Queen? The witness, the living were left to decipher the King ambiguous words.
The general view of everyone present including the Queen seem to have been that Harald, at the last moment, had been nominated as King.
The Council of Nobles who were also present in the funeral Procession in the Church of Diana the Apostle, has decided after hearing the statement of the witness.
Two Elder noble offers the crown to Harald. They began speaking. One is kneeling while one is handing the crown to Harald.
‘Here is the crown for the Great and prosperous Vangua. It is the king last wishes that you be made King and we urge you to accept and to respect the right of the noble lords and devotion to God. Will you accept these hard responsibilities and be the protectors of this nation, to defend it with might, to shower it with love and to treat your people with divine compassion?’
However Harald did not thrust his arm out to receive the crown, his hand on his hip, deliberating.
Harald is a hesitant man, especially in such momentous moment and he is wondering what he had to do next.
To accept the crown he already knows what he will face…..the dragon, he remembers. There are still many complications he has to unravel if he accepts.
But Harald could also see that the other noble trust him and it must have appeared to those present nobles, Harald who is known as the Vanquisher, an experienced warrior and a great commander is truly the man for the moment.
There are also the memories of the oath he swore to Arial. Seeing this hesitation the Priest Stigrand came to him.
Harald in whispery voice tell the Priest of his concerns and the Priest listen with great attention convincing Harald that the oath he swore to Arial is involuntary and invalid- not only in the eye of man but in those of god as well.
Convinced that Arial have no ground to dispute his rule, he said
‘I accept’ Harald said and is responded with great jubilant cheer.
In any event, Harald does not think that Arrandians is hardly the sort of people whom you expect to invade Vangua.
Who does Arial think he is? Harald said deep in his heart. He had been cornered into swearing that oath and he did not ask for the help.
He would brazenly settle the matter, and he would do so in the robust manner possible.
Harald would be King of Vangua. He would accept the crown himself, just as the King had wished and the blood of Alan will once again rise , and occupy the most glorious office of the land.
Smiling he look at the statue of Levitia with a big smile in his face.