CHAPTER 139: THRONE OF VANGUA
The whole reason of the oncoming war stems from a promise made by King Edward the Saint to Arial the Dragon in 1020AF.
This promised is considered binding by Arial and his vassal and primarily his wife, mostly his wife, who has made it her life mission to make her husband a king, to claim her rightful place as Queen of Vangua as her lineage so advantageously has given her but the promise which Edward the Saint promises to the dragon in the North is construed differently by others, especially Harald Alan.
If we are talking about Althea or before as they are known as Zephyr, their lineage that stretches back to the formation of the Kingdom of Vangua and some distant past relations with the 4 Families of Freya, their claim is not that farfetched and can be accepted by all the other noble lords, so does the Orleans who has most of the control of the south of Vangua, who intermarriages with many of the nobles that have relations with the noble families of the royalty of Vangua.
But to say about Harald Alan and Arial Vermont, these two great men….their claim is dubious at best.
But these two potential candidates both have distant claim to the throne of one of the most prosperous area in the human continent.
But for all their rivalry and enmity both of them have quite the same situation.
Harald claim to the throne is because of his relation with Orleans while Arial claim is through his wife side of the family.
For the Orleans their marriage was a political marriage uniting two of the eldest nobility line while Arial and Helia unite one of the most celebrated lineages of Vangua and Aetherland into one of the strongest family militarily in the entire Human Continent.
In Vangua there seemed a general acceptance that Harald should be king.
Many must have had reservations, but few were prepared to oppose him, and the majority probably thought him the least of the various evils, which included rule by foreign and unknown Arial, or by a King boy, the new King of Zettel, the younger brother of Marilyn Roth, wife of Adrian Alan which means they will be marginalized by the Caelum lords, who would find it difficult if not impossible to fight off the rivals.
For men in south of Vangua, Harald is their obvious lord; for nobles in the north, he is at least the devil they knew and perhaps respected.
Events in any case moved so fast that it is difficult to see any other immediate choice. On the day of Edward’s burial, Harald is proclaimed king, and crowned in the new church after the burial concluded.
The Arrandians would later claim he had acted with indecent haste, but they could hardly deny that Vangua had accepted him.
Those nobles, who were in the south, no doubt anticipating the old king’s death, favoured Harald.
He had achieved some recognition of a special position in the kingdom, being referred to as General of Vangua, Harald the Vanquisher and a staunch opponent for foreign influence in the land of Vangua.
Harald took the crown ‘as the king had granted it to him, and as he had been chosen’.
So the curtain is open on one of the bloody battle for the most coveted throne at that era, as two of these rivals will finally face each other in one of the greatest battle not because of the scale but the importance of the battle to the world on the whole scheme of things ever recorded in the history of Human Continent.
The scent of the morning in the forest is fresher and more rejuvenating than that of his own castle.
The huge and tall trees sheltered anyone from the sun, making it sometimes look like a dark wood but as the sun showed its face the light that shine through the leaves is so beautiful that one had to dispel such notions.
The sound of birds humming, the butterfly flying in the scenery and some creatures could be seen dashing around the forest finding food for the early morning.
Arial went hunting in the morning after his refreshing morning. He first visited her sister as his parent advised and asks her of her wellbeing.
Arial is surprised of the sheer brilliance of her sister, the way she devoted herself on her studies, proficient in many areas.
She also has this silent strength that Arial could see, one that Arial believe that even Adrianna herself does not yet realize.
They talk about many things….mostly about his adventure.
Adrianna seem to be interested in the story of Arial journey, of the dark lands, story of the Holy Cities of Aralam, the Heaven Mountain at the Xenos desert, the culture of the other races.
Her enthusiasm is so infectious that Arial have lent her key to his own private library. Her passion even amused Arial to a point of disbelief.
Every member of the family has their own private library but Arial probably have the largest collection of books from magic to martial arts theory on his library.
Aries on the other hand does have library but that is mostly for appearance. Unlike his wife and son, Aries rarely reads.
Arial does not let people enter his library easily not only because that is where he keeps his secret but also because of the many forbidden books by the church is kept in there, sealed and never revealed to the church.
After all the church version of the story is not the only version that has survived the church persecution and not everybody worship the Light as their God.
It is because of his conversation with her sister is so titillating that Arial lent her the key to his own private library with a generosity unbecoming of him in the matter of his secret and Adrianna seem to be happy with the gift and the trust that Arial has shown her.
Arial is still admiring the brilliance of her mind even while hunting. To think that Adrianna, his own little sister, that quiet little girl has such intellect.
From what Arial heard Helia put great emphasis on her study, recruiting the best teacher from all over the world.
Arial is pleased of her sister achievement. Women are not treated with dignity in these times but that only applies to common folk.
For a lady of such houses, especially House Vermont, she might even dictates in political game in the future.
Of course Arial would like it if she could enjoy her youth now. When she grows up a harsh world is waiting her but Arial swore to protect her from any harm.
Such is the protectiveness of a brother.
Arial is not so naïve to protect her from hurt and pain of her own devising because that is the only way she could grow and become stronger but Arial will be there in her darkest moment to give hope….to give light when darkness seems to prevail, to be the shoulder she could lean on when time gets tough.
The world does not care whether you are suffering or happy….so like it or not change is inevitable.
And Arial knows her sister is acutely aware of this. If Arial sharpened his sword for war, Adriana sharpens her mind for the future. Arial could not be prouder.
His heart is at peace and calm. It is fill with contentment on his current life and happy at his fortune.
He decided to bury the past…..and the fact that Helia chooses him……is one that he can be happy about but if she did not choose him what will he do?
Will he banish her? His heart is not strong enough to do that. To his enemies yes. He could even exterminate all of their families.
There is no reason to let a seed of future problem to grow. Nip it in the bud; pull it from the root. But to the people he knew and love?
To the people he has owed so much towards? Could he do such a heartless thing? He can’t. Even if his wife ran to the embrace of Kyle the most he can do is divorce her.
Even if Kyle betrays him and covet his wife……could he kill his own friend? Arial does not have many friend especially since he became lord, which means his heart need to be kept safely in a safe, far and impervious from people malevolent intentions.
It is because of this reason he is more appreciative of the friendship he have and Kyle motive is actually simpler though more sinister then the other lords motive.
Gold is a common motive.
Feeling of superiority is also some of the objective of the noble lords. But love? Love is one motive Arial is most afraid of.
He knew love and there is this one trait about love that made Arial scared. Unpredictability.
And it is for this reason Kyle motive, the emotion that governs his behaviour is one thing that makes Arial could not believe him completely.
But Arial also understand one thing.
The fact that Kyle did not pursue his wife again…means he has a guilty conscience. And Silas also has reported to him that since their last meeting in the gardens there is no suspicious night meeting.
Whether Kyle has decided to calm himself or Helia has spoken her decision Arial doesn’t know. But clashing with his friend and wife is not a scenario he likes to imagine.
And that is what he fears he has to do. Arial is brave in many things but in the matter of the hearts he is naïve and a….coward if he has to admit it himself.
Even when his heart yearns for Velamina, it was Velamina that tore away his pretence and broke down his defences.
Even with Helia it is the same. Then he silently admitted….even more so…with Helia. All of the matter in love is always initiated by the other party and not him.
In love, he is passive, waiting. One act of cowardice or naivety he still possesses. And it is not like he doesn’t realize this fact; in fact he realizes it and detested that part about himself.
While his bravery in battle is commendable, formidable even, his heart in love is a fragile one….for love requires the surrender of self, and Arial has live with secrets since the day he was born and secrets has its price.
And he remembers of course how his relationships with Helia started. It was not him that initiates this. It was not him that begins this relationship.
It was Helia that confesses to him first. It was she that has the courage to make her love known.
In the past timeline, women are scarce and marriage is not really a thing…not when the whole human continent is at war.
Thinking about it, he did not have any relationship with any woman in his past life. Thinking about it, his life is not so interesting the first time around.
Thinking about it…..he has lost many things, regretted many things and lost sights of many things.
And this time around, he wanted to gain many things, to regret nothing, to see all of the sights he missed….to take time and look….truly look. And maybe something will change or maybe it won’t.
Either way he will know when he reach that part…..when he has done all he could, when every effort has been expended to…live fully.
Then the bush in the surrounding make a sound and that perk Arial ears. Arial sense the figures of the beast.
Arial already know the type of beast that hides in such bushes so he ready his bow.
Arial quickly pull his bow string and release his arrow as the arrow rips through the air and pierce right through the boar abdomen and the boar is dead with one strike, splurging blood like a fountain from the attack.
‘Hmm’ he said.
This is not what he intend to hunt. He heard from the people of the castle that there is a white stag of old spotted near his castle. It created quite an uproar in the castle.
It is because of that reason Arial is so eager going hunting in the forest encouraged by his sister and wife.
Though it was his sister that is so enthusiastic with the hunt. She wanted to see the famed white stag.
The white stag of legend.
It was said the white stag of legend is the divine form that the Lady Of The Lake took to guide Levitia during his distress running from his pursuer and it was the Lady of the Lake that give him Lightbreaker, and at the end of his life, he throws it back to the lake.
From what history or hearsay, both of those stories interchangeably form a coherent story that when Levitia throw the blade to the lake, a woman hand reaches out from the lake and took the sword.
From what the story and myth describes her, she looks beautiful but there is coldness and silent anger in her and she reputedly rarely smiles.
Taking the blade and looking at the last moment of Levitia life she has been alleged to have said The Age of Man is beginning and the Age of Gods is nearing its dusk.
‘I bear witness of the fall of a great hero today’ and saying this words, she return back to the cold dark lake.
It is said Alexander sent many of his greatest warrior to retrieve the blade from the lake but no one could ever found the blade in the bottom of the lake.
Even though many eyewitnesses said that they saw it with their own eyes that Levitia throws his blade into the lake.
It is said those that could catch a white stag is given great luck by the Gods if you catch it and then release it as it is regarded as the divine form of the Lady of the lake.
I guess I have to keep searching.
Arial is also curios of why such ancient things can be spotted but surely nobody would dare lie to him if this is an elaborate joke.
Then from behind Arial could sense movement. Someone in horseback. From the trees emerged a shadow.
‘Kyle’ Arial said looking at the man with a quite complicated expression. He still remembers…still know, still deliberating on what to do with him.
There is a wall between him and Kyle now, an invisible barrier so impenetrable that Arial surely felt that Kyle could sense it….this distance between them two right now.
After he return he did not visit Kyle or the Lethe family as he usually does, though he did meet Lisa and West for some tea.
Kyle then proceeds to the reason why he came into the forest, to relay news of grave importance.
‘Arial, there is some news you should have been told. I came here as a bearer of bad news. Bearer of evil news.’ Kyle said looking at Arial with a conflicted look.
It is clear he doesn’t know how to break this story to Arial other than being honest on the vents that has transpired.
Kyle has been asked by the council to break the news to Arial because all of his council is afraid of how their lord will react if they heard the news from him.
‘What news?’ Arial inquired.
Kyle then approached Arial and whispers to his ears of what had transpired in Vangua and it is clear from the changing colour on the lord face that the news has taken him by surprise.
It turns from pale white to red, showing how wrath filled the young lord heart, and the shocked expression in his face is unmistakeable.
‘I will abandon this hunt’ he said as he steer his red horse, to the castle with fury in his heart.
As his horse is galloping, he is thinking though not a very rational mind, for he seems to be affected by the news terribly, with worry and anxiety for the people of Arrandy and for the future of his domain and his family well-being.
It is not so much the taking of the throne or the breaking of the oath that angers Arial so…it was the trade and the interest of Arrandy in the south that is now blocked by Harald.
To think that his kindness towards Harald is being repaid with evil. Kindness is not always repaid by good, Arial know this better than anyone.
Arial could not silence his furious heart.
Returning home he sat on his library forbidding anyone to enter and the castle all feels the tension, like a terrible storm is coming.
Helia seeing his husband eyes when he enters the castle and the malevolent aura and the depressing silence he carries with him, even she is afraid to approach her own husband.
While his parents know better than to interfere with their son decision. They are accustomed to Arial making the sole decision for the house.
It is the same for his pious sister. Adriana after all because of these kinds of events believes his brother to be the ultimate authority in Arrandy.
Who is she to dare spoke of her brother decision? She is too lacking and while Adrianna believe that her brother is very fond of her, she does not know where that fondness ends.
Surely a short temper reputation that her brother possesses is an injustice on Arial character but since Adriana does not know the truth much else spend too much time with her brother, the fear lingers heavily on her mind and as such she fear to approach her brother even more.
His word is the law and nobody dare break it once he speaks.
Nobody dares roused the young lord so the council call again upon Kyle.
‘My lord’ they said to Kyle.
‘Please call upon Duke Arial. We could not hold the meeting without him, not when he is present in the castle. We fear he might then blame us if he knew that we hold such meeting of such great importance without him being present. Our lord temper and fury is unpredictable so we the council have resorted to ask Lord Kyle to beseech Duke Arial to come.’
Kyle also hesitated. He knew of Arial temperament but even he realize that after Arial trip to the dark lands, his disposition of calmness is replaced with a disposition of uncontrollable fury.
And to rouse him at this moment, is not a chore Kyle is willing to do. And Kyle himself is too ashamed to meet his friend.
He knew what he had done….and even right now his heart still covets. And it is for this reason seeing his friend face is a torture to both his conscience and heart.
He also felt that wall, that invisible wall.
Arial used to be the friend that he could talk to…about everything. Kyle does not forget what Arial had done for him…what he had done for him, for his family, for his sister.
All of these kind gestures do not go unnoticed by Kyle, on the contrary, it increases Kyle guilt.
But after hours of talking and talking without reaching to any sensible conclusion, and with great persuasion by the Council, Kyle volunteered himself to go rouse Arial as he acknowledge that Arial presence is needed right now, more than ever.
This is not something the Council could make a decision on. This is not something they should decide or have the authority to decide.
This matter is too big for the Council to make their independent decision since it will affect the region and possibly the continent, and as such, the man at the top must then deliberate the decision that will be presented on him with clarity.
Kyle went to the library with anxiety and a little trepidation, with each steps his heart become anxious and beating wildly, and when he reached the library he knock it three time and from the library the voice of Arial order him to enter. It was calm yet that silence anger can be felt.
‘My friend’ Kyle said.
‘Yes.’ Arial said, not giving Kyle even a glance, as the lord is concentrating heavily on something else, he is sitting on floor with many books around him and Kyle realizes it is the trade manifest of the caravans, the ships manifest from Freya ports and the profit statements and loss statements.
Arial is a lord or great military army but even army could not work without some incentives.
Gold and supplies, riches and glory…..and loyalty. These element need to be present for army to be willing to be led by Arial.
And Arial has gold…he has many gold.
Loyalty on the other hand is such an abstract concept that Arial usually disregard it in the scheme of things focusing on benefits that his vassal lords could achieve.
And now that gold is being obstructed. It is not like Arial could not cope with the loss but why should he?
Even though Harald is the king there is no reason for him to bock Arial trades. This is clearly offending Arial.
Arial has even save Harald neck from that last crisis and Harald is not even giving his some dignity.
Arial could not appear weak. He is the lord of Arrandy, clothed in immense power. He knows by now how this game works. Show weakness and you will be devoured.
Arial knew why Harald took the throne even though Harald knows that he will be pitting himself against Arial.
In Harald’s eyes, kingship was his reward for long years of service propping up an inert dog-in-the-manger in the form of Edward.
And at this moment Arial had no choice but to go with the plan he had once discuss in secrets with his inner circle, the conquest of Vangua.
For Arial the conquest of Vangua was always implicit in the logic of his elaborate kinship network fan by the enthusiasm of his wife and vassal’s lord, which meant there, had to be new territories to conquer so as to satisfy the aspirations of those who had joined his web of royal clientelism.
After looking at all the loss and he also analyzes the consequences of the news that Harald has become king, Arial is also worrying if there will be a secret faction for Harald in Aetherland.
After all, the Succession War is still a wound in the side for King Adrian.
It is not surprising then for Arial to have concerns that Harald is not only planning for his domination in Vangua but also in Aetherland, the land where his blood first rise.
With great and large enough support, Harald could once again raise his banner in Aetherland and once again plunge the peaceful Aetherland into the abyss of war.
Such threats must be rooted out immediately before it could find a way to engulf everything.
He looks at Kyle and he said with determination in his eyes.
‘CALL ALL OF MY COUNCIL MEMBERS, AND ALL THE GREAT NOBLES OF ARRANDY. HARALD WANT WAR? FINE! I WILL ANSWER HIM!’