AOH – Chapter 65

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CHAPTER 65: ANOTHER KINGDOM

HARALD ALAN

I have arrived at Arleans and have been greeted with great civility from the House of Orleans. It seems battles are being waged around here in Vangua but no war is declared. It is usually a skirmish and there is no big scale battle.

It seems there is a little political instability here in Vangua.

I could sense that the first moment I arrived at the Port of this nation. Everybody seems to be in a tense atmosphere which makes me confident that there is something happening in this nation.

I do not know what it is until I reach the castle when I was finally told about the recent events that happen in Vangua.

My fate after I was send to Dostov was an unfortunate one.

With my defeat in Dostov and my grandfather death, who even I do not know very well, but he seem to try to understand me and genuinely care about the family and my mother.

Fortunately the patriarch of the house, Lord Arlean is a close friend to my father.

I heard the story.

My father is dead killed by the dragon. I was supposed to be sadder. But I can’t fake that feeling. There is no love lost between me and my father.

Hearing it I was enraged but not because he killed my father because of what happens next.

By changing the law in the Alan Dukedom now known as Aetherland my uncle has denied me of my rights to the crown.

My uncle created a dynasty of his family as the reigning King.

But not of his brother offspring.

The fact the Alan name is removed from the new Kingdom name is a sign of his intention of denying me claiming the throne. Not only that but also the fact that they even name the race of the Caelum to Aether.

Zettel has no problem with it, so is Vern but that is mostly because their Kingdom is in decline and picking a fight with Aetherland with its alliance with Zettel and Seren is a bad idea politically and economically.

Thinking about my uncle brings me the memory of my father. My harsh and unforgiving father. My father who has a very violent temper.

My father is not a kind father.

Far from it. He is not caring or affectionate, he is no attentive and he couldn’t care less about me. I always envy West and his family.

Henry Palais is a little arrogant but when it concerns his son, he tries to do right by him. I always envy that about West. And West also try to do right for his family.

My father never gives me a compliment. If anything he likes to undermine my efforts.

So, I felt no remorse on hearing him dead. But……that does not mean I do not think of him. Whatever his faults, he’s my father.

With our family connection in Dostov and Alan no longer existed and those who have sworn loyalty to us has abandoned us we are in a vulnerable position.

But thanks to lord Orleans we are safe here from our enemies. Even if the Vermont knows we are here, trying to hunt us here would be no easy task.

Vangua is almost as big as Vern.

Not to mention the Vermont don’t have many influence here in Vangua. The traders trade with them but in other spectrum of the political power in Vangua not many can be influenced by the Vermont.

They are Caelum and not only that, their wealth even intimidate some of the lords here in Vangua.

That is why they are wary of that house. They have in recent years emerged as one of the major players in the human continent.

In Vangua on the other hand, the kingdom is rocked with the disappearance of the King.

The word is that the king of Vangua, Edward Merovich disappeared and no one knows where he is now.

Usually in other countries they already will began fighting to decide who gets the top if the King died, but here….the situation is different.

The King is not dead. He disappeared to thin air which means he is still alive and well somewhere.

And that left a dilemma.

March to the capital and that would be a direct act of treason. Surely people would remember him as an unhonourable person and his rule will never be recognized by the common people.

This few weeks I have joined lord Orleans in his strategy discussion.

He has found it in his best interest to keep me inform of the political happening in Vangua. It seems Jean Arleans has a plan.

I did not complain and I help him formulate strategies.  Politics after all is the same everywhere. People that hate you, people that benefits you.

My mother urges Lord Orleans to marry her daughter to me like it has been promised during a meeting a few years ago when my father met him. He agreed which surprises me.

I have nothing to offer.

I do not know his endgame but I recognize the benefits of having a lord of such caliber backing my family.

Today I’m meeting Emilia for the first time. I was heading to the Grand Hall to meet Emilia when I heard footsteps behind me.

‘Harald!’ I turn around.

‘My lord’ I greet Lord Jean

‘Yes, Harald.’

‘How are you this morning?’ he said and he looks at my face and ask me

‘Nervous, my lord.’

‘HAHAHA’ he laughed.

Then he looked at me again and his eyes beaming.

He looked outside of the balcony and watches the green horizon from his castle.Like he is reminiscing about something

‘I know your father you know?’

I nodded

‘I know, my lord’

Then he began talking about his old memories of my father. It seems my father left quite the impression on him.

‘He is charismatic and strong. But he is also full of pride and headstrong and very single minded. When I heard he orchestrated the bloody feast I know what he intends to do. Your father and uncle are not so different.’

He shakes his head.

‘No, no, no they are quite different. My mistake.’ He smiled to himself.

‘Your father intended to create an independent nation, stronger than any other kingdom, but the way he go around it is wrong. I have always advised him that he would be in opposition in every corner if he goes through with his plan. I warn him that even if he succeeds his Kingdom will be almost bankrupt. But alas, no words of my advice ever reach him. Like I said……single-minded.’

I nodded again.

‘Yes…..my father has always been single-minded in everything. One of his strength and weaknesses.’

Lord Jean just nodded in agreement

‘You mean to say my father end goal has always been the creation of a Kingdom’

He nodded

‘Yes, that was his intention’

‘But my uncle also does the same thing. Does that mean he’s also the same as my father?’

‘No, he’s not.’

‘What makes you say that?’

‘He did not want to become king, your uncle, he was forced to. Aries the Kingmaker.’ He said and he looks at me. I understand.

It is the Vermont that elevate the King position with their connection with the Church.

‘I met both of them you know. Your uncle is the peaceful one. Your father is the strong one and he has a visions. But his vision must spill a lot of blood before it can even be realized. It will even destabilize the region if he has to. But do not mistake me. I cannot fail to mourn his fate, for he is my closest friend. His gifts as an able commander and a lord that can inspire people to die for him raised him above his contemporaries and made him a worthy opponent of the Vermont family, especially Arial the Dragon. He lacked only that final spark of genius that set Lord Arial apart.’

I could not help but agree with his statement.

‘So you already knew of his plan?’

He nodded

‘I suspected. He is always talking about it.’

Then for a while silence.

‘My daughter?’ he said to me like a question

‘Yes, my lord’

‘Treat her well, since your mother is so insisting in this wedding.’

‘I know my lord and I bowed slightly ‘but why do you agree with the request of my mother?.

He sighed.

‘We are both practical person Harald, at least that is how I hope you to be. Right now Vangua King is nowhere to be found and Aetherland with its alliance with Seren and Zettel are slowly emerging to become a nation of great power.  On the other hand racial divide is turning our Kingdom divided’

‘Then why does no lord march to the capital?’ I asked

‘Because we can’t. We all conspire to oust the King from his throne on the grounds of his race domination over us. But I am Frankish blood but I also have the blood of Anglais from my mother side. If I march to the Capital then the Raxons,Loth and the Ethrusk will all have  a problem with a Frank lording it over them. We have been accustomed to being ruled by the Caelum that we did not even let other race take that place. Ironic isn’t it? We don’t like that the Caelum has always been lording it over us, but we hate it more when our equal supposed themselves as our lord King. No offense’ he looked at me.

I smile. After all if we are talking about Caelum race my ancestor is one of the purest bloodline of Caelum. But not me. I am half Caelum. Caelum from my father side, Anglais-Raxons from my mother side.

‘None taken’ I said

‘So?’

‘So if you married Emilia, your son or daughter will have the blood of Caelum preserving the line of Kings which would appease the other kings, Cori, Vern, Dostov and the rest of the Continent can be pacified, which will deter them at least to invade this Kingdom under the pretense of installing a Caelum King on the throne’ and he smiles

It is not the first time it happen. In the time of Vern Empire the Ragged King is of Eastian descent, and many of the other Kings sworn to the Imperial family were displeased.

George the Wise even had to personally lead the army that put down the Ragged King.

Renasia is different in that they intermarried so much in their royalty that it is hardly a matter of race for them but more a matter of pride.

So to say that if one King in the Human Continent could not establish their descent to at least a Caelum descent, the throne can be claimed.

The domination of the Caelum race over all the races of the Human Continent has never been questioned.

After all it was our ancestors that created settlements and with Levitia, the greatest of the Caelum saves the people of the Human continents from the tyranny of the Demon Lords.

It is what George did when he want to claim Eastiana which is now Vern. It is also the same move he used when the Etrushkan Council has political power in Cori.

‘He called himself Aether but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a Caelum, pureblooded,’

Lord Jean said remarking on my uncle decision to change the name of Caelum race which has only been change once and that is from Levitia time.  ‘and at the same time your claim to the throne, or to be more precise my claim to the throne, does not offend the other lords of other race. Brilliant isn’t it?

I nodded

Then he looked at me and said

“It is magnificent isn’t it?

‘What is?’

‘The Caelum is one of the minorities in this Continent, not many come from a pure bloodline anymore. But every administration post of importance is always held by their race. It invites envy and induces bitterness.’

I smile

So this is what he wants from me. An heir to the throne. Which means he is eyeing the throne of Vangua. One that can trace back their descent to Caelum descent.

Such lofty ambition. But he has another daughter called Amelie. She is young and prim. I met her once in the courtyard accompanying her sister playing the harp. Maybe she will get married to some of the lords that might prove favorable to Lord Jean ambition.

‘What about Cori?’

‘That I can handle.’

Then a middle aged woman come to me and handed me a letter. Emilia nurse. I looked at the letter and read it.

I turn to the lord and say

‘Forgive me, my lord it seems your daughter wants to meet me in the courtyard.’

The lord nodded.

‘Go then.’ Then he grinned at me

‘My daughter doesn’t like being made to wait.’

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COURTYARD

Central open air courtyard brings the fresh breeze of spring. I could see her from here, her figures waiting for me. I take a deep hard breath and began walking to her.

‘You are late, my lord’ the woman said.

She is pale, in a good way, her eyes are large and her cheeks are rosy. She looks petite and cute.

Her eyes are blue and her hair is red with long straight silky hair that reaches just above her hips.

Fire and Ice.

I bowed lightly when I see her. She noticed me bowing and she bowed too. A noble lady of high upbringing.

‘I was being held up by your father.’

‘Father?’ she said like she is calculating something. She gesture to her handmaiden.

‘Yes.’ I reply

‘Please sit down my lord’ the handmaiden, a young woman guides me to the seat.

‘It is fine’

The lady stands marveling the garden.

‘Fiona, you can go’ the lady said.

She nodded and without a word she went out from the courtyard.

‘So. It seems you will be my husband’

I nodded

‘And it seems you will be my wife.’

She turn back slowly and look at me. She looked at me, with an amused look, that unsettled me.

I ask her

‘Why?’

‘Why what?’

‘Why meet me?’

She giggled a bit and then she answers.

‘I prefer to look the man I’m about to marry and see if he is worthy of having me’

‘And now?’

‘Now what?’

‘Now that you have looked?’

‘You have quite the feature’ she said smiling and turns back her gaze to the gardens.

Vague answer.

‘So, is that a compliment? Or an insult?’

‘What do you think it is?’

‘I will take it as a compliment’ I said

‘As you should, my lord.’

I look at her back figures and for a moment all I can hear is the sound of the wind and the chirping of the birds that fly around the garden while Emilia just look in the distance, not talking about anything.

‘So, is that all?’ I asked

She didn’t seem like she wants to talk. She sighed.

‘Do you know why we are getting married?’ she asked

She did not need to know that her father is trying to gain power in the Court so I said

‘It is because our families are close and your father is convinced that I would treat you right’ she turned around and looked at me with a wry smile.

‘A gentleman’ she said.

‘There is no need to speak lies on my behalf my good lord. I know of my father ambition for the vain title of the King. I never understand the obsession that title has over men. They fight for it, die for it.  Life of a farmer is peaceful than a King, I often times wondered. Kings have to endure sacrifice, heartache, plots and intrigue yet they covet the position even more. It is men quest for ruination that always amazes me to no end’ she said and she smiled at me, scanning me.

‘And you, my lord? Do you too seek the same?’

I was shocked of course. Woman rarely interfere in the matters of politics and the fact that she knew is unsettling.

I know that many ladies know that their marriage is being used as alliance marriage but not all daughter of a lord is obliged to comply.

After all, a happy marriage means a happy family so usually the ladies will tell their lord father who they are fond of and if their father agrees, then they will get married.

Forcing a girl to marry other men is frowned upon by the Church after all but that doesn’t mean it does not happen. And this girl in front of me doesn’t seem like she can be forced. Which means she is doing this for her house.

I shake my head.

‘So, you knew’

‘Yes. I knew.’

‘Then the reason-‘ And she cut me off.

‘The reason I want to meet you is because I need to see the man that father has chosen for me. He takes you in not because he wants to expand his influence but only to honour his friend. It is the only time my father has made such move that will not benefit him.’

‘Is that so?’ I said and I remember Lord Jean plan for my offspring

She shakes her hand

‘I do not mean to offend you my lord. I just……we are getting married. At least I would like us to have an amiable relationship. Perhaps, if we get to know each other….we might even fell in love.’

‘Like you said…this is a political marriage.’ I said

‘Yes. But a marriage not started with love in the beginning doesn’t mean that it has to be that way forever’ she said.

I smile. And she smiles. I nodded.

‘You are right. It seems I have been deal with a card. Better make use of it’ I said

‘That is what I’m talking about.’

So I approached her and instead of looking at her I look at the very same direction she is looking.

And if my eyes did not mistake me I could see a hint of smile traced around his lips. We just stand there looking at the same direction without saying anything and I know it….my journey is just beginning.

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HARALD ALAN

LORD OF AQUITANIA

1015 FALLMONTH

ARLEANS CASTLE

The year is 1015 Fallmonth. 2 months has passed

The elderly Lord Jean is seated on his cushioned chair woven with beautiful fabric, in a secret conference with Lord Pierre Bascogne and with me Harald, Lord of Aquitania after being conferred the title by Lord Jean a few days ago.

This past month my father in law has unified the rebelling lords under the Vangua crown. But still the King position is not yet determined.

He sits in the chair, pale, full bearded and tired.

He is wearing a blue robe and he is here today to announce a matter of grave importance. He has been shot with a poison arrow in the Ryons area.

And now as he surely knows is life is about to end. He is discussing the line of the succession. He has no male heir and thankfully I have married Emilia a few weeks ago. The poison has been dispelled but his body has grown weaker.

We may not love each other like any other couple but our relationship is cordial and amiable and maybe someday that feeling will develop into love.

The state of affairs in Vangua right now is not…..peaceful.

With the rebellion and revolts uprising and peasant asking the King to return and the nobles blaming the Orleans family for their part in forcing the King to flee, Arleans and it’s surrounding areas are in grave danger of being taken by other lord.

Lord Pierre Bascoge has sworn fealty to jean a long time ago, and a great friend of the family. I was already informed by Emilia about what is going to happen today.

I have been helping consolidating the Orleans power in Vangua using my knowledge and experience in the previous war to benefit the Orleans family goals.

There are a lot in my mind right now. There is the Hooded Man I sent to Acro,then there is also the matter of the succession of this duchy.

Emilia has persuaded her lord father to give the land to me, and we will rule it together, side by side.

She may not be the most beautiful woman, but her talents in politic only rivaled that of my grandfather.

With the support we receive from other Anglais-Raxons lords the Orleans has become quite predominant more than before.

But even before, the Orleans family has held many clouts in the administration. I have been campaigning in the South against the Loths and the Etrushk and the Leof.

I have made quite a reputation for myself as a formidable entity and loved by the high society because of my lineage that trace back to Alan Gerhardt.

I’ve been campaigning against a Lothian King who try to secede from the Kingdom. Aided by Lord Pierre I returned to Arleans in triumph, presenting the King head to Lord Jean.

Maybe in that moment, I seem to be a worthy successor and instead of next year, he quickened the marriage dates so last week I was finally married to Emilia with all the splendor that the household can afford.

Surely, by now the Vermont’s have finally know where I am. Before I can hide under obscurity but now?

I doubt that.

But even though Arial now Prince Arial a title conferred by Aetherland King, my uncle, knows I’m here, he will not be so stupid to come across and bring his army here, not when they have just return home from a long and taxing war.

‘Harald’ the tired lord gestured to me.

He stoops towards me and speak to me with low voice.

Our forefingers touch. And then he looks at me with an enigmatic silence. He knows his time is near and Death is calling.

Lord Pierre also knows that and he know why he is here, on one of the last moment of the great patriarch of this household.

This meeting, this secret meeting, somehow I believe it at this moment, whatever the outcome, will set in a motion, a chain of events that would change history.

Succession did not solely depend on who had the closest kinship, though this is of course a persuasive factor.

‘I am dying’ and his word broke the peaceful silence

I nodded.

Lord Pierre nodded.

‘I summon you here Pierre because I will ask you to swear fealty to the next lord of Arleans, my son in law Harald Alan. May you find him to be a generous and wise lord. Do you swear it?’

He looked at me and then he looked at Jean and he nodded.

‘I swear it by my honour and I bear witness to his lordship over me.’

‘Good.’ He smiled and then coughed a little. The poison is weakening him.

‘There is a reason I called you here other than to swear fealty. The throne of Vangua.’

And we looked at each other.

‘You will take it for my family’ he pointed his finger at me.

‘Father- in law I-‘

‘You will take it for my family. Now give me a suggestion how you can take it under the watchful eyes of the other lord.’

Then I give him ideas and Pierre also contributes but none address the issue. There is always something not right with the plan.

If we take the throne without a justifiable cause we will be looked down upon but not taking it will only increase the instability in the Kingdom. Even now some lords are even thinking of seceding from the Kingdom to form a petty Kingdom.

Then I got an idea.

‘Then how about this. my lord? Create a council from the lords, the great and the powerful in the lands and let them reach major majority as to who they chose the next King. Using the council as a pretext, no one can blame us taking the throne. It was a duty imposed on us.’

‘How are you sure the lords will choose us?’ he asked

‘How can they not? Your house is one the richest and powerful. They would be stupid to defy your house.’ Lord Jean nodded.

‘Yes this can work.’

‘How about the King?’ Pierre asked.

‘The King has run away. If anything he is a coward.’ Jean nodded again and smile.

Lord Pierre also nodded enthusiastically

Then under the darkness of the night we hatched our plots for the throne of Vangua.

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Vern now is not the Vern in past.In the past Vern capital is situated in Vangua before the Divide where they moved to Eastiana and named it Vern for the namesake of the Empire.

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