CHAPTER 144: SHEPHERD
Arial has invited Robert to his mansion and now he awaits him alone accompanied with only his attendants.
The tension is palpable.
Even when he threatened Robert with vengeful anger he did not come to his mansion, and even Arial is impressed with Robert guts, to invite his wrath upon the House of Dudley for refusing his summon.
So, Arial dangle the possibility of negotiations, showing that he too is hopeful for reconciliation, hoping Robert would take the bait.
And then the next day come as Arial is enjoying the smooth air of his mansion, a delegation came rushing from the house of Dudley.
And he spoke of the intention of the Lord of Auster relaying to Arial his acceptance to the lord invitation to negotiate on the said matter.
Robert has decided to heed Arial summon and try to negotiate with Arial. He has decided to come.
And Arial knew his plot will work. The first step, the trap has been laid and Robert fell for it hook, line and sinker.
Excited by the prospect Arial went down to his cellar and open a bottle of Riella wine and sip it slowly savoring the languorous taste as the vision for his plot thickens.
DUDLEY REGION AUSTER
‘My lord is this a wise decision?’ said a man his tone is worried and there is an unmistakable hint of anxiety.
‘Do not worry about me Bert.’ Robert said assuring his courtier Bert Roland.
It has been a few days since Robert has received the Duke summons and yesterday he has made a decision to confront the Duke one on one to resolve their misunderstanding.
However many of his courtier is unsure of the young duke temperament or whether he is sincere in his intention on summoning Robert to his large villa in Rivoli, a piece of vast land belonging to House of Rodan which has been bought by the Vermont after the war of succession.
This is Bert Roland final attempt to dissuade his lord from going to Rivoli. He felt some evil lurking in this order of the Duke some unexplained malice.
‘I fear my lord. Fear for your safety. I don’t think this is as simple as you think it is. I even feel that you trusting Silas is not a wise decision. Not when he has acted mostly in benefit of the dragon family.’
‘There is no need to doubt Silas. I don’t think he would betray me. And worrying about me? What for? I have come to negotiate with the young lord and he seems to be open to the idea. He might be harsh but I doubt he will harm me, his own vassal, whose father fought for his family during the war, not when he is has invite me to enjoy his hospitality.’
The reason why Robert is not worried about the Dragon harming him personally is because his father once fought under the banner of Lonnes who fought for the Vermont’s.
It was after the war that his father Liam Dudley swears fealty directly to the dragons. Their sigil is a flaming arrow behind a black background.
A few years later, Liam died of old age and Robert inherits the title and the land. And as such the obligation and oath of fealty towards the dragon.
He may not always see eye to eye regarding the duke policy but he is loyal…at least to a point.
But on Vangua matter Robert could not, must not budge from his position. Robert has hatred towards the Vanguan as much as any Caelum but truly Robert believed that attacking Vangua is a foolish matter.
If the Duke instead chooses to attack Aetherland, Robert could still back the Duke but Vangua now, is not Vangua of the past.
And Robert do not want his men to die meaninglessly from the war. Ultimately this is what separates Robert and Arial.
Arial knew that a path of peace is not forge on forgiveness but on blood. Blood alone move the wheels of history.
Arial believe this because he has seen worse. And sometimes he must do worse to avoid the most tragic conclusion.
Arila had the heart to do what had to be done. Whether he attack first and be on the offensive or…..wait and let Harald build his forces and attack Arrandy. And Arial chooses the former.
Vangua need to be vanquished so that Arrandy could prospers. Life and death. Beginning and End.
Arial understand this better than anyone. Sometimes, he has to bloody his hand so that others don’t have to.
Robert on the other hand, feels that if Vangua is left long enough, then surely they would crumble by itself seeing that there is no permanent government in Freya and there is still Cori to think about.
In the end, both of these men have different of opinion in solving the problem. Arial believe that Harald poses a very credible threat to the peace that he ahs built.
On Robert part, he believes that Vangua is a kingdom that is rift with problems more that the new King Harald could handle and if it is left alone the equilibrium and balance of the Kingdom will once again reverted to its natural states.
Since the fall of Vern, the natural order has crumble. Vern, the Dukedom, Zettel, Vangua, Cori, Dostov,Seren Bardent, Tuca , Cora, Renasia.
Now….only a handful of these kingdom existed. Vern crumble in to two Kingdom, Southern tai and Northern Chu.
The Dukedom unified into one entity which also separated into two forces. Arrandy and Aetherland but still one kingdom. Zettel, still the same ruled by the Roth family.
Vangua has conquered Freya. Cori still on the fence. Bardent, Tuca, Cora is assimilated into the culture of the Sun worshipping pagans of the Ethruskan people.
Zettel, Southern Tai, Northern Chu, Aetherland,Vangua,Cori, Seren, Great Renasia. The 8 Kingdoms.
Bert also understands the intention of his lord but still.
Still Bert is trying to dissuade his lord with words and reason. His worry for his lord trumps any rational argument that his lord could present him for Bert feel the most ominous signs when his lord, decided to heed the summons.
After all Bert is not only Robert courtiers but he is also Robert old friends, he is Robert trusted confidante from early age.
‘I fear that the dragon is setting up some trap to lure you away my lord. This is my true opinion. There is some plot afoot here. This timing and this summon is too….unusual.’
Robert shakes his head, trying to allay his subject worries.
‘You worry about me too much. And after all I will bring my army. The young lord even consented to this, and this shows he mean no harm for me. He is waiting for me alone in his mansion outside of Acro without even an army himself. If anything the duke would fear me for my treachery instead of me fearing treachery from him.’
‘My lord it is not wise to be so sure of everything. The dragon is cunning. Everyone knew of this. And I doubt you could persuade him to abandon his ambition for the southern kingdom of Vangua.’
‘Surely with my eloquence and reason that I will soon propose him, it would win over his arguments and safe the other noble lords a lot of troubles and war. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain’
Saying this Robert hugged his old friend and courtier and mounts his horse. He rides to his army and set out from the castle gate.
Bert on the other hand looks at his lord back and say
‘I hope you are right my lord. I hope you are right and my intuition is wrong’ saying this Bert walked away from the stables and return back to the castle.
The Dudley army stood before the hill and sauntered slowly to the huge mansion on top of the hill.
When he reaches that area everyone was awed by the sheer beauty of the area. Rivoli is a piece of land that belongs under Arrandy which mean it is under the Vermont’s rule.
Rivoli Mansion or villa is one of Vermont favorite places and beauty spot for the Vermont family to unwind themselves.
The villa is big enough to accommodate the entire host of Vermont, his entourage, soldiers, servants and courtiers and the layout is juxtaposed conflicting axes to follow the lie of the ground and influenced by earlier villa landscaped garden.
This produced a villa that worked well with the contours of the land. The villa and gardens is unwalled for Arial was no recluse.
He out of everyone understands the danger of isolation for power. The villa also have many blocks and many groups of building with the center apartment the largest and widest of them all belonging to Arial.
This villa was commission the first day the young lord become Duke and just finished a few months ago.
The mansion has priceless painting and statues, decorated with all of these luxuries to show the art patron of Arrandy is not one that shy away from artistic tendencies for themselves and share it with his subjects.
Then they reach the front gate. From outside the crier announced Robert arrival.
‘THE LORD OF AUSTER, LORD ROBERT DUDLEY HAVE ARRIVED HEEDING THE SUMMONS’ the crier cried.
The gate opens, creaking as it was heavy and huge.
Then from the front of them a man could be seen walking toward them and no one have no doubt that the man walking to them now is the Duke.
He is majestic in every way whether in the way he dresses or the way he carries himself. There is a silent air of power around him that exudes authority.
Robert and his other army dismount their horse and was about to greet the young lord. Still they waited for the young lord to come to them.
But the duke waste no moment or words when he reached in front of the lord army.
Instantly when the young lord lock eyes with Robert and when he is at considerable distance with this delegations, Arial instantly intimidated them as he did so many before.
His voice exudes fiery ferocity, showing his strong will and determination and his authority and power as one of the most powerful persona of the Human Continent.
“KNEEL BEFORE ME!’ He bellowed at their first meeting. It was a powerful order and one that is spoken with such ferocity some tremble in fear.
Even the army suddenly feels even with their number this man in front of them fears no army.
‘SUBMIT TO ME! I TELL YOU WITH SINCERE HEARTS I HAVE NOTHING IN MY HEART BUT TO PROMOTE YOUR PEACE AND HEAR OF YOUR PLIGHT’ his word thunder around the area, showing the majestic power of the man renowned for his strong will.
Succumbing to his powerful presence, the Dudleyian kneels without complaints, their knee quickly kneel to the muddy ground, their head bow down in front of such imperious presence.
‘I will listen to your complaints later. I have something else to attend for now’ he speak, a reason resembling an order.
The lord then without any other words leaves the scene. The attendants run to them and relay the duke words to them.
Then they were invited in to rest by the attendants as the Duke return back to his room and ordered the delegates to meet him at the large room in the living hall.
The attendants become their medium for the Duke is in foul mood and this increases the tension of the delegates.
The duke promises safe passage but from reputation the duke is an eccentric man. What if he turns back on his words?
This worries passed from one soldiers to another. However no such worries is realized since by the afternoon the Duke seems to regain his joyful temperament.
Then they are summoned to one of the room in the villa to discuss their matters.
There they discussed many things one of which has importance the matter of their deployment and the Vangua matter, and they listened as the Duke promised to look after their interests.
However it is clear that the Duke has many more to discuss and unknown to the delegation Arial is delaying now.
Then it reached night. Arial look at the delegation and advised them.
‘It is better for your delegation to return home since there are many issues to contend with here. There is no need to keep them here when your safety is guaranteed here. Or are you plotting something Robert?’ the look in the Duke face turns mischievous
‘How could I dare think of such treasonous thought my lord? Ease your fear my lord. No such thing will ever happen.’
‘Then order them to return home if truly you want me to be sincere to your assertion of innocence.’
It is clear to all that the man that the man who has to stay is Robert. The Duke spoke with the utmost politeness, but in essence it was an order
‘True, my lord. I will do so to prove your worries are unfounded’ Robert replies. So in order to ease the duke worries he ordered his men to return to Auster first and wait for the good news.
On other hand, in other part of Arrandy, with no one to rally the opinions of the noble lords, and with this little time frame of Robert in Rivoli, Silas uses the Vermont’s money to bribe and sow dissension on the coalition, his tongue spins lies like the truth, hearsay to concrete facts, and with such prodigious skill resembling the God of Trickery, the faction of lords disintegrated, some lords arguing for negotiations with the Duke, others switching sides seeing, uncertain with the future of the coalition.
Silas also spread misinformation telling the coalition that right now Lord Robert himself is trying to score a deal with the Duke by trying to negotiate a better term for himself in the Duke Villa at Rivoli.
This news which began to sound the truth, in absence of anyone who could deny it becomes a potent weapon to erode the trust that the noble lords have in Robert.
Quickly they too began thinking to switch sides. Though it must be noted there are still some who are still stubborn.
But to those other lords that have been deceived they feel furious anger for Robert.
Now, not only they have invited the rage of the Duke but now they have been betrayed by the man they most trusted.
And a dark plot bubbles on their mind as they found a scapegoat tailored perfectly for the situation that they faced now.
A FEW DAYS LATER
‘What has happen?’ Robert said as he slumped into his chair his hand trembling reading the letter he received from the raven.
For a few minutes, he just stares at the letter, trying not to believe the content of the letter, denying it.
It is now clear to him that he was being used by the Duke to further his plan. Bert has sent him this secret letter detailing what has happen in this few days.
His former lords friends have all turned their back on him and now calling for his head, making him a scapegoat in this affair.
Robert could understand them.
They will hail him as the mastermind of the opposition and when that has been revealed surely the duke will execute him at the spot.
He has lost. He has truly lost. He never even had a chance. The Duke is too cunning and he, Robert has trusted the wrong person.
He should have considered the probability that Silas is likely to support the Duke more than him.
The Duke it seems has returned home to Acro for a while so now is the perfect time to escape he suddenly mused.
He awake from his slump and decided. He may have lost today but someday he can rise again.
The Duke family has trapped him. Trapped him completely, destroyed his reputation that he has painstakingly build all these years.
Now Arial enemies are divided and unsure of himself and Robert the leader of that opposition has been painted as the villain there is no other choice but to flee Arandy.
Robert knows that Arial has achieved his objective. The plan to remove him hinges on him coming to the villa.
From the very beginning all of it was a trap, a trap he should have seen, even anticipated. But where should he flee?
He could not flee to Vangua not when he is not sure whether he will be accepted and it is well known Harald policy on Arrandians.
So, he has to flee to Great Renasia. Deciding this he sit back down onto the chair, and write a letter and send it through the raven.
He has send to Bert his plan to flee. Surely Bert will escort his family to Great Renasia. Robert do not think the Duke is so heartless to even targeted his family.
For now he will flee from Arrandy. The Duke will surely see this as a victory.
A temporary victory.
One day Robert promise, he will return to Arrandy once again. Then opening his bedroom door, he began his escape.
THE TOWER OF RIVOLI
‘You would not chase after him my lord?’ Oliver said as they look from the tower, looking at Robert fleeing from the front gate with his horse from the stable.
Arial just look outside the tower onto the fading appearance of Robert.
‘It is fine. Let him go. There is no need to do more than this. Any more than this, and I am truly cruel. I have no enmity with him but he keeps being an obstacle to my plan so I have no other choice then to neutralize him.’
As he said this he sits down and ponders by himself as Oliver nodded and exited the tower room and prepares the next steps.
‘Haa’. Arial sighed.
Arial know that if he only had a pretext to lure Robert away, his coalition of lords would crumble and fall.
He played the oldest card in the book—threatening with fire while holding out a bucket of water with the other—and Robert fell for it. The fire was his wrath, the water was his willingness to negotiate.
And Robert swayed. He believes Arial is open to his opinion when all the time Arial was trying to keep him here in this villa cut off from the others.
It was during that time Silas work his spell onto the coalition lords, a time frame that is enough for Silas to turn down the sheep scattered all around the grassy lands.
Isolation is dangerous Arial mused.
A tower does nothing but cut off your information and when you have no information, you have no strength.
Once the lord was in Rivoli, on his grasp, under his influence and constant surveillance, Arial kept him there for as long as it took.
For Arial understood one of the principal precepts in the game of power:
One resolute person, one disobedient spirit, can turn a flock of sheep into a den of furious lions. Take that away….and the only thing that is left is a group of meek sheep.
The times have changed but still the essence of power is still the same. In every group, power is concentrated in the hands of one or two people, for this is one area in which human nature will never change.
People will congregate around a single strong personality like stars orbiting the yellow sun….continuously
To labor under the illusion that this kind of power center no longer exists, is to make endless mistakes, waste energy and time, and never hit the real target which is this strong people that everyone center about.
Powerful people never waste time. And Arial is certainly not one who would waste valuable time, especially not when there is such an enemy that could possibly hinder his plan.
Arial knew that when there is trouble among his lords, he has to look for the underlying cause, the single strong character who started the stirring and whose isolation or banishment will settle the raging seas again.
This is why he has to strike at the shepherd and need not bother with the sheep. This is because such an action will dishearten the sheep beyond any rational measure.
When Levitia and Alexander Montblanc led their tiny forces against the Dark lords empires, they did not make the mistake of fighting on several fronts, nor were they intimidated by the numbers arrayed against them; they captured the kings, and noble lords of the dark lands.
Vast empires fell into their hands.
With the leader gone the center of gravity is gone; there is nothing to revolve around and everything falls apart.
Aim at the leaders, bring them down, and look for the endless opportunities in the confusion that will ensue.
That is how Arial decided his victor against the coalition the moment he decides to plan all this plots.
But of course Arial also think of the consequences for such plots. Then Arial said while looking at the bright moon.
“Any harm you do to a man should be done in such a way that you need not fear his revenge”
If I have acted as such to Robert I must make sure he lacks the mean to repay the favor. Apply it from a position of superiority so that I have nothing to fear from his resentment.
Arial then said
‘If you draw a bow, draw the strongest. If you use an arrow, use the longest. To shoot a rider, first shoot his horse. To catch a gang of bandits, first capture its leader. Just as a country has its border, so the killing of men has its limits. If the enemy’s attack can be stopped with a blow to the head, why have any more dead and wounded than necessary?’
This is Arial principle…ever-changing. Sometimes he hit hard, sometimes mercy must be given.
Power is fluid, so the method to retain it must also be fluid, sometimes you must have the courage to stand against the currents, sometimes flow with it, sometimes hides behind the background, and sometimes jump into the front.
And thinking this he smiled and he knows that the next meeting will be his victory.