CHAPTER 147: WIN THE HEART
Arial set out from his castle at dawn to Arouen and he rides to the open road leading to the North of his region, expecting favourable response.
Thick forest covered a lot of Arouen area and Arial also spotted some dangerous wild animals on his way to Arouen but none that could harm Arial in any way.
Arial even stop at some villages when he arrived at Arouen.
Arouen Castle where king Adrian lives is at the most the center of Arouen region and it would take Arial a few weeks to reach it riding horses.
Arial greeted the farmers and the villagers when he stopped. Not many knew that the young man addressing them was the Duke of Arrandy, the feared central Celestial as he in known in the martial art world, but it is clear to them that the young boy is nobility with the way he talks and the way he is dressed.
Of course Arial did not wear his family famed dragon crest.
If he did, everyone would have recognize him and would be too fearful to approach him, fearing offending the great lord.
Arial sometimes spend a few days at some village he found beautiful.
Arouen and Arrandy is different in this matter. While Arrandy is famed for its cities, most notably Acro, Aroeun region is famed for their beautiful countryside with thick forest, fresh air and breathtaking scenery.
The lake is beautiful, the rivers are soothing and the forest is idyllic.
The lives in the village is also fairly stable unlike the turbulent conditions in the city, and of politicians who always seemed to be at war with each other, plots and intrigues and lies by merchants and traders in the marketplace.
Arial admit that his city is one of the most developed parts of the Human Continent but Arial did not deny that it had its own dark secrets and evil sides.
Human achievement that represent light and darkness live side by side.
Arial then arrived at Revan which is situated at a short distance from Arouen castle. It once called Dented Shield castle but it has been named differently after King Adrian take up residence there.
The moment he arrived the guard quickly recognized the young duke for this time Arial had wear his dragon crest on his chest.
And not only that the Duke once led such an army to the north before.
It is even stranger if the guards who once watch the martial parade of this great commander during the celebration of the King victory does not know him.
Quickly the people of the castle open the castle gate and the servant run up to the castle door and straight up to the tower to announce Arial arrival.
Firebringer, Arial favorite horse was escorted to the stables while Arial has been escorted to the main hall for an interview with the King.
‘Please sit here my lord while the King dresses himself’ the attendants said.
‘Thank you. I will wait him here then.’ The attendants bowed before he exited the Great hall.
Arial sit down and he sipped the wine that has been prepared for him a moment ago. It staves of his impatience.
Arial had decided to assume a very respectful and deferential air and manner when he is being interviewed by the king later.
King Adrian is a young man, though indecisive and unbelievably kind in an era where such kindness will be looked down upon.
Arial realizes that he is Adrian superior, not only in strength and experience in battle, but in talent and character and in personal renown.
But Arial decided to approach the King with a deferential manner, to watch the respectful observance due from a vassal to his sovereign.
Arial also intend to make known his plans, and tell all that Aetherland might benefit and asked for Adrian’s approbation and aid.
And then a few moments later the great hall door opens and the crier announced the arrival of the King with all the ceremonies.
‘My liege’ Arial said kneeling.
‘Rise, Prince Arial.’ The King said almost immediately
Arial rise up. And then he greets the King.
‘It has been a long time since we meet face to face, your Highness. If my memory serves me right, the last time we met was at my wedding.’ Arial said remembering the last time he met with the king
‘Yes, true indeed, my lord. I was present at you wedding. It was a celebration worth remembering. A great lord with a great lady’
‘HAHAHA’ Arial laugh making small talk before getting to the heart of the problem.
The King takes his seat.
‘So, Prince Arial, why have you come here?’ Adrian said his eyes squinting at Arial.
Both of these personas knows what the other are thinking but Adrian still want to hear it from Arial own lips.
Arial then explained about his matter and venture, of the story of a broken oath, of the insurmountable obstacles in front of him now.
That the south is controlled by Harald and Arial spoke of Adrian cousin who is related to Helia cousin and how their families share the same blood, kinsmen in race and blood, and spoke of the betrothal between his sister and Adrian son, and ask for Adrian aid and the Kingdom army to help Arial cause for the crown of Vangua.
All of this is mentioned for Arial wanted King Adrian to understand and maybe hoping that King Adrian will be more inclined to render his aid.
‘I am willing your Highness, if the aid is afforded to me, to hold the Kingdom of Vangua, as I had done the duchy of Arrandy, as a dependency of the Aetherland crown as a sign of my gratitude.’
This is Arial offer. Arial is many things but he did not go back on his word. He will still be the King of Vangua but the crown is under Aetehrland.
Arial is still cherishing the relationship he has built with the king and what is land anyway among families?
This is one act of loyalty he has shown Adrian, a generous act of goodwill. Not to mention this will surely aid his venture if the King helps him with the procurement of the army.
If what Silas had inferred is correct then Cori is also in cahoots with Harald and that means more manpower on Harald side.
Arial is confident with his strength right now to defeat maybe ten thousand of them alone but after that, he is not so sure.
Overwhelmed him with number enough even the Central Celestial would fall. This time, Arial is not sure if Gaveror can help him again.
Arial is not one that would leave things to chance. Always plan to the end but more importantly, plan in such a way that you do not need an alternative plan.
And Arial knows that if he falls, his army would fall.
If Robert is the pillar of the opposition parties then he is the pillar of the conquest. If he falls in battle then morale is destroyed and the sheep will scatter.
He is the shepherd this time. And his army is his sheep.
However Arial could see that King Adrian is not at all happy with Arial offer. His expression is hard and there is no smile on his lips.
His look is a look of an indecisive man, conflicted with many burdens.
‘Prince Arial, I could not look this proposition of yours with favour. There are too many factors that needed to be taken into consideration. Who would take care of your duchy while you are running off chasing a kingdom?’
The King inquires.
‘That, Your Highness, is not a subject which you need not concern yourselves!’
Arial shot back, a little angry at the King lack of enthusiasm on his offer. The king expression hardened and he stares at Arial.
Arial was about to face the King head on, but calming himself down and taking a deep breath, Arial came to the conclusion that a more respectful answer would be more preferable to diffuse this hostile situation.
Arial decided to give in.
‘Under the circumstances that I am in, I am blessed with a prudent and intelligent wife and loving and loyal subjects and surely I could leave the duchy to them. They surely will keep it safe for me until I return. The regency will fall to my wife and aided by my council.’
Arial reply with the utmost humility and sincerity.
‘I am still not confident of this plan of yours, Prince Arial.’ King Adrian still opposes this plan of Arial.
Arial on the other hand begins losing his patience. The King has been given an offer of a lifetime and yet he still wanted to delay giving Arial answer.
Still the King admonished Arial not realizing that Arial is about to burst out of frustration.
‘This plan of yours is dangerous and involves too many kingdoms and attracts too many enemies. For both Aetehrland and Arrandy. Do you want to destabilize the southern region while giving the north more reason to march into our borders?’
Adrian lectured clearly not favouring Arial explanation.
‘What of the enemies in the north? What if they set their eyes on the Northern Borders while you were gone? I strongly advised you, Prince Arial, to abandon this scheme of yours and be content with what you have. Have I not shower you with titles and glory beyond any man in my lands? These schemes of yours to covet the Vanguan throne would only lead you to terrible ruin. Listen to me, Prince Arial. Be content. Be grateful in what you have achieved.’
‘What if I don’t want to be content?’ Arial said and there is a challenging tone in his words.
The King feeling that the young lord is beginning to feel angry then raise his hand swiftly to try to diffuse the situation.
‘I will spoke of this with my own council before deciding on this case prince Arial. Do not cast your judgment over me before I give you my sentence.’
‘Fine then. I will wait until you finish talking with your council’ Arial said all pretense of cordiality abandoned.
Arial began feeling annoyed at the King lukewarm response. Arial then stormed out of the great hall and spend the night at the guest quarters.
When Arial stormed out from the hall, Adrian summoned a council of his great nobles and officers of state, and called them to discuss about Arial proposals that night.
Adrian meets his council and they all are thinking about Prince Arial proposals. A few moments ago, Adrian has laid Arial proposal before the council.
Lord Paris, Lord Sutton and all the other council members are deliberating among themselves to decide what would be the decision of the Kingdom.
Even though the council task is only to council the King and gives their opinion, the king usually follows the council decision.
This is because the king trusts the decision of the council and it is better to get approval in matters of importance considering the people in the council.
The council itself is the invention of Vermont’s. Many noble houses now adopt a council to counsel them in their matters.
The council itself existed before but not like the Vermont style of council.
The council of Vermont is different in that for example a noble holding the post of administrative must not also hold position in the council and the council of Vermont’s is not only consisted of nobility but scholars, masons, any talented men that might apply themselves to the Vermont’s house.
The head of the family can always add new members or evict the old ones.
It is different in many royalties where the honored seat of their council is mostly reserved for nobility or family.
Arial doesn’t care whether his council is nobility or family as long they are talented and loyal. This is why Arrandy is governed so well even during his absence.
Adrian thoughts are disturbed by his council words.
‘Your Highness, we have decided.’ They declared
‘And what is you verdict?’ Adrian asked hoping a wise decision.
‘We have decided to confirm your decision. We could not help the Arrandians in their private war, and rendering Arial our aid would involve a great expense from the treasury and we all know his venture will be attended with great danger of failure. And I don’t think we can survive such failures.’
Adrian nodded. He was thinking the same thing. If this plan of Arial fails then the blowback is catastrophic.
Then Lord Sutton said
‘And as to Arial promise to hold Vangua as a vassal of Aetherland, Your Highness, we the council have no faith in the dragon oath.’
‘Surely the dragon wil-‘
‘Your Highness have you forgotten? For many years now since Arial Vermont rose to his position as duke, your highness knows how difficult it is to maintain any effectual authority over the Duke of Arrandy, and when he , if he can, if he succeed in this venture of his, he will become the master of Vangua. A master of so distant and powerful a realm as Vangua, surely all Aetherland control over them would be forfeited forever. They might as well secede now.’
Lord Sutton said passionately, rousing the agreement of many of the other council members.
Adrian nodded in agreement confirming the wisdom of his council. But he could not easily listen to his this wise counsel.
Adrian truthfully feels a little dread meeting the dragon.
The young duke is strong and very talented in battle and if truth be told this throne he is sitting right now will not be possible if not for the dragons rendering aid when all lords would have abandoned him.
But he also recognize the dangers if Arial become the master of Vangua with resources even rivaling, if not more than of Aetherland.
Adrian could not help but thinking about it for a long time. However he finally decided and he decided to harden his heart.
Arrandy must stay in Aetherland if Aetherland were to remain strong.
And Adrian believes Arrandy venture would end in failure. The next morning Adrian summoned Arial to the great hall once again, and the young duke obliged to meet him at the appointed time.
Adrian enter the great hall and sees that the young lord has been waiting for him that morning, sitting in a chair with his leg crossed against each other.
He is not pleased.
‘I have waited long enough here in the North. The air is fresh, the scenery is beautiful but I need to rush back. Have you decided Your Highness?’
‘Then tell me of your wise decision Your Highness.’ Arial said stressing the wise part and this does not escape the King ears.
‘I have decided after great deliberation on your part and the counsel of my council to not render aid. It is impossible to render aid to you when the Kingdom itself is not yet stable.’ He declared.
Arial look at Adrian with a strong feeling of disappointment and displeasure. Such feeling can easily be deduced by looking at his expression.
Arial, who could no longer stand this farce any longer get up from his seat and marches to the castle gate.
‘Please wait Prince Arial. Let me give you some gifts before you return home to Arrandy.’ Adrian said, trying to send the Duke in a good mood.
Adrian conducted the duke to his retinue when the hour of departure arrived, in order to soothe, as far as possible, his irritated feelings, by dismissing him from his court with marks of his honorable consideration and regard.
At least that was his intention
However….Arial was not in the mood to be pleased.
He rushes to the stables, open the barn and jump to his flame coloured horse, Firebringer and he was riding it to the castle gate fuming with anger.
The guards look at the appearance of the duke and they feel that something has happen in the castle. Something bad.
‘OPEN THE CASTLE GATE. NOW! OR RISK MY WRATH!’ Arial yelled. The guards in the castle gate are all startled by the thunderous yelling and they all rushed to open the gate.
‘PLEASE WAIT’ Adrian yelled from behind riding his horse, galloping to try to get a hold of Arial.
But Arial did not stop. The castle gate open and Arial ride out but still he feel that this humiliation must be repaid in kind, so he stop.
He could not let the King get the last word.
And then he turned back his gaze to the castle gate, and in anger he yelled, as his voice reverberated all around the castle, a sound wave emitted from his massive internal energy.
‘ADRIAN! You are my king and I am one of your vassals and I have never disobeyed your orders before and I have served you loyally all these years!’ He thundered and his voice was so impactful that some could swear the castle gate shakes slightly.
‘BUT TODAY,’ he yelled
‘Today, you are about to lose the most powerful vassal that any lord sovereign ever had, could had, by the course on which you have decided to pursue. KNOW THIS! I would have held the whole realm of Vangua as a part of your dominions, acknowledging you as sovereign over all of it, if only you had consented to render me your aid, but I will not do it since you refuse me with such determination and reluctance to aid me as your kin. I shall feel bound to repay only those who assist me. REMEMBER, THIS MISTAKE OF YOURS KING OF AETHERLAND! The next time I came here, I will be your equal…NAY…your superior. I ONLY HAVE ONE WARNING! If you do not want to offend me more than this, then even if you do not want to help me with my venture, do not get in my way. If you do, I will come and I will burn your castle, loot your cities, pillage your villages and crush every single building you had with my own vengeful might until they turned to nothing and I will put every single head of the people of your rule to my merciless steel. Farewell, king of Aetherland. ONE DAY WE WILL MEET AGAIN!”
Saying this Arial rode outside the castle as his fast horse galloping like the wind, none of the people chasing him could even keep up, as they watched the fading back of the Dragon leaving Arouen.
Their hearts are stirred with dread and fear, hearing the Duke speeches. Burning, looting, pillaging, head to steel.
This is horrifying words, scary words. Threatening words that only the Duke dare say and dare accomplish.
And Adrian hearing this declaration could not help but feel he has lost a precious treasure and suddenly he remember Silas word a long time ago to him.
“It is better to win hearts,” said Silas, Adrian remembered every single words, like that very man is standing in front of him and talking with him, whispering into his ears, counseling him with his wise mind “than cities; better to battle with hearts than with weapons. I hope you will succeed in winning the hearts of the people, for only by winning hearts, you will always emerge victorious”
This word resonated inside Adrian mind as he watches the duke disappeared from his eyes and his expression was like he lost the world.