AOH – Chapter 66

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CHAPTER 66: THE ARRIVAL

EDWARD MEROVICH

1015 FALLMONTH

We have reached Acro but the young lord does not return yet to the city.

So under the advice of my loyal lord we disguise ourselves and live indefinitely in the Sleeping Dragon an inn in the city.

One of the many inns in this prosperous city. The atmosphere all indicates that this city is a very civilized city and influential.

The Acro citizens deserves their fames with the scholars all around the city and merchants at the ports while the Peacekeeper patrol the ever growing city,

This city or region of Arrandy is also unique in that it gives citizenship to even other races that is foreign so different from other Kingdoms that only embrace the culture that has already existed during the Secession.

For this past month looking at the city and its inhabitants no wonder people call it the Jewel of the Continent.

It is prosperous, ships come all the time to trade, foreign language can be heard in the port. People bustling around in the marketplace, merchants smelled of spice all fill the city.

The guards in the castle are all trained and from what I can see even though Arrandy is under the Crown of Aetherland it seems the King give the House of Vermonts quite the autonomous reign over their land.

Home to philosophers, merchants, and spice prince from Ariundus. A land of excess and wealth. And freedom unprecedented compared to the other Kingdom and with no interference from the King.

It seems appropriate after all. The dragon won him the crown. By now everyone has heard.

The young lord is returning after killing Alderam in the North and many of its inhabitants are already preparing a festival while the castle is busy preparing a feast. The Duke of Arrandy Aries Vermont have prepared all for his son return.

It seems Aries loved his son very much. And the common folk also loved his son. Aries Vermont is also blessed with a daughter who is by now is 1 year old.

From what I heard he spare no expense in decorating the castle and he has already begun sending invitations to other lords to come.

Even before seeing the young lord I am already amazed by him. From the story he is paint as a warrior of tremendous caliber and a genius in the battlefield.

Some merchants even gossips that it was the young lord that transforms one of the abandon counties into one of the wealthiest Dukedom in the Kingdom with traders and merchants and scholars from the whole world come.

A hub of trade and knowledge.

Today I sit again in the table in my room accompanied with only my books. Ethel will return a couple of moments from now, like he always do.

In here he addresses myself as Edward fearing our disguise will be revealed. If it’s revealed, my life and the life of my people will be jeopardized

‘What did you hear?’ I said once Ethel comes in. He fans his face with a rough hide of hat.

He is tasked in finding information and hear any gossip or worthy information about what happens in Vangua.

‘Bad news’ Ethel said while he sits himself in the chair.

‘How bad?’

‘The Orleans has begun to move.’

I release a deep sigh. Vangua. My homeland.

Now coveted by the very same family that might have killed my father.  I have tolerated them with no choice when they came back after their exile and now I’m paying the price.

A miasma of warfare, conquest and blood and carnage will surely follow if I delayed returning home.

Even now the Orleans is plotting to take the throne. This I knew. Surely even as I sit here worrying about my life, plots and alliances is being forged right now.

‘What are they plotting?’

‘Nothing conclusive but I have heard that they are planning to form a council.’

‘For what?’ He shakes his head.

‘I do not know.’ I sighed again

I could not return to Vangua without an army and put myself at risk. Put the people that believe in me at risk.

And I cannot be unmindful of my father fate. Maybe I could call back my bastard brothers in Ranoa, exiled by my father asking for his support.

Quickly I shake my head. He is too impulsive. Too hard and brutal.

That is why father exile him in the first place. And there is no guarantee he will help me. He would sooner kill me that help me probably.

The problem with bastard brother is that. You never know where his loyalty stands. But the Orleans?

I could not forgive the family who plotted to kill my father but as weak am I, need to be patient. There is many reasons I wanted to be King.

Kingship is a prize worth having.

The king had considerable reserve and residual powers: no one else could tax directly or issue coinage; a monarch could break the low lords and minor lords, declare him outlaw, and so come into possession of all his lands and property; and had sole command of national armies and fleets.

Great nobles, with estates in several region and small freeholders, all held their lands provisionally from the king and in return owed him some service, rent or remuneration.

And to do that I need armies. And the dragons have it.

A strong, disciplined army, a professional force, probably the greatest institution that the dragons advanced the most with their great wealth.

It is ironic that while the city is at the height of civility and gathered many of the greatest minds in the continent, it is the army that probably benefited the most from the wealth of the dragon.

As Caelum himself and from what I hear, the young lord is a man that is fill for patriotic love for his nation and it is obvious to anyone paying attention in this past couple of years that the young lord has been strengthening the Kingdom, and defending and fortifying key positions in the border both at the border in Vangua and at the Blessed Lands.

Especially his border.

‘Hmm…’I said

‘So what should I do next, my Lord?’ Ethel said looking at me waiting for his order

‘We wait. Wait for the dragon to come home.’

And pray that he would help us.

******************************************************************************

ARIAL

1015 FALLMONTH

HOUSE COUNCIL CHAMBER

I open the door and the other lords bowed as I approached the center chair.

‘So is there anything I need to know?’ I said as I sit on my chair in the House Council. Fenwick bowed and I gesture to him to speak up.

‘My lord, first of there is a letter from the other Kings and nobles that have congratulated you and some of them would be honored if you could come to their feast’

‘No, I would be busy here now. I don’t have time to go anywhere else. Reject their invitation but say something nice.’

Fenwick nodded.

‘Barden, how about our trade?’

‘Yes my lord.’ He said as he opened his parchment and reported it to me.

‘It is progressing and now that the road to the north is open we can resume trading with Taijian in the Taiguo region again.’

‘Can we open trade center there? Did we already get permission from the ruling house there?’

‘We have my lord, provided we give them 5 percent of the cut.’ He handed me the documents. I looked at the projected income and profit and I decided it is worth it.

‘Give it if they want it. The potential of opening trade post in Vern, the profit we will reap is beyond than what we will have if we open in other region of the Continent. Vangua and Vern is one of the largest Kingdoms in the Continent.’ I said smiling already counting.

‘Yes, my lord’ Barden nodded as I return back the document to him.

‘Oliver, any news?’

‘Yes, my lord’ he said and he leaned forward.

Oliver is my Spymaster and he is good in his job. Very good.

‘I got some news but I do not know whether it is true or not.’

‘Tell me all the same’

‘There is some news that there is some movement in the dark lands but it is unverifiable.’

‘Movement? What movement?’

‘Some people reported seeing an army is marching to the Blessed Land but the next day they said it disappeared.’

I perked up. This is….impossible. I should have two more years if we are going by the law of time.

Or did I mess time too much? Did the order become messed up? Two years. 1017. That is when it should have happened.

‘So what then?’

‘That is all’

‘That couldn’t be all!’ I said raising my voice.

Oliver quickly get fluster, his calm demeanor is abandoned.

‘My lord, I speak truth. There is nothing more than that.’

‘Massey!’

‘Yes my lord.’

‘Strengthen the defense around the Wall.’

‘My lord?’

‘Do as I say!’

‘Yes’ he nodded.

‘Anything else?’ I said to Oliver.

‘Edward Merovich.’

‘ Yes, what about him?’ This dampened my spirit. I thought he would give me more news about the movements in the Dark Lands. After all that is the only thing that matters.

‘I have it on good authority that he is in our Kingdom right now.’

‘And what do you want our lord to with that information?’ Massey said.

‘Our lord ca-‘ and I cut off Oliver words.

‘I will do nothing. Vangua politics is no consequence of ours.’

‘Understood.’ He said ‘and I have some other news.’

I gestured him to speak.

‘We have known where Harald is.’

Now this something I need to know. His whereabouts is unknown even to Henry and other lords that is with Alderam that day.

‘Where is he?’ I asked

‘Vangua, under the protection of House Orleans.’

‘Hmmm.I suspected as so, considering they are betrothed. But I never dare to make an uneducated guesses. Brilliant’

Oliver held his hand up

‘Yes?’

‘There is also a letter from Renasia’

‘I said I won’t go didn’t I! Their congratulations are well appreciated but I have no interest in going to their party.’

‘This is not from their royalty my lord. It is from the Princess personally.’

‘Princess. Rhyssa Renasi? That Princess?’

The Virgin Queen. At least that is how she is called in my time. She never married and it was said that she never lost a battle until of course she lost against the swarming horde of the Demon Invasion.

‘Yes, my lord. I think it was kind of odd, so I take it upon myself to present it to you’ Oliver grabbed a letter from his bag and handed it to me.

I take the letter and open it with a knife. The seal is a sun and a knife around it.

From: Princess Rhyssa Renasi

To: Lord Arial Vermont, Duke of Arrandy, Count of Acro, Baron of Danoba.

It is my honour to invite you to my party to celebrate your victory in the war and at the same time celebrate Renasia victory in Tuca. I am waiting for a favourable reply. It would be nice to see you again, my lord.

See you again?

Did I ever meet a Princess?

‘Well my lord?’

‘Decline it. She must be mistaken somehow. Say that I am plagued with many matters so I regretfully could not attend her ball. I doubt she will be disappointed and Renasia is far away from here. It would take maybe how many months?’ I said.

‘Fine, will do my lord’ Oliver said as I handed back the letter to him.

‘Oh, Barden before I forget send some gold and precious items to the Austen for helping us halt the Verman movement in Vern.’

‘Yes, my lord.’

‘Massey, I will be inspecting the army this evening so you can go first. The other too’ I gestured.

They all stand up and begin turning their heels

‘Not you, Bishop Paul. You stay.’

The other looked back.

‘Go.’

I said and they all quickly went outside the chamber.

‘Sit.’

‘Yes, my lord.’

‘The church.’ I said suddenly

‘Do you know anything about the recent events that happens in the Grand Papnoticon?’

‘My lord?’

‘You are a bishop. I am sure you know something. Why did they ravage the Academy? And why Orval? What he had to with whatever the Church is plotting?’

‘I sincerely don’t know’

‘Sincere?’ I scoffed.

‘Yes my lord. But…but I do hear something.

‘What things?’

‘It seems that the word from the Holy Church is that Orval and his companion is involved in some shady enemies of the church.’

‘Enemy of the Church? And what, who is that?’

‘Take your pick, my lord.’

‘Are you or AM I asking the question?’ I said raising my voice.

‘No my lord, I….forgive me.’

‘Hmph. Is that all you know?’

‘Yes my lord.’

I moved around in the chamber while trying to digest this information. An enemy of the Church? Who? What? Where?

‘You can go, Bishop.’

‘May God bless you my lord’ he said as he went outside the door.

‘May he will’ I said.

******************************************************************************

BARRACKS

I have arrived with Fire bringer to the stables and quickly I handed the horse to the stable master.

The armies have also begun recovering themselves and their salary is paid in full as they celebrate their victory with their loved ones, and tells story in the tavern and bards and minstrel sang their song.

The kingdom atmosphere was of joy in glorifying these warriors and happy that their young son and fathers all return to their family safe.

My return was celebrated with 3 days festivals and a week of feasting among the lord. This couple of days I have been thinking whether to annul my marriage with Helia.

I wanted to annul it……because my life has a time limit. Because of the poison that afflicted me. But I can’t.

She is my……last hope for happiness. She makes me believe the impossible. I know I don’t say it enough, and express it enough.

It’s not because of modesty. It’s because I never let myself be……engulfed with that feeling. Love…..dulls my motivation. But she is home for me. Like my parents. Like Lisa and Kyle. They are home for me.

If even I succeed in my mission…if there is nothing waiting for me at the end of the road what good would it be?

So….selfish as it may be…..I will make her mine.

For these two years, the time that I will spend with her, will be spend in eternal bliss. That’s the only way I can redeem myself when I’m gone.

I will hold her and she will hold me.

Even in darkness and horrors that looms in front of us, even though it does not make it go away, but when I hold her I feel safe….no….that is not it.

I feel…..better.

And even though if she find out and cried her hearts out, I will whisper to her. “It’s all right” Even though the end is near and the nightmare is still there it is better. With her…….I’m better.

“I’m here. I love you” I will whisper it to her.

And for a while the nightmare doesn’t seem so bad. I cannot protect her from the grief that surely would follow, this I know.

But I will watch from beyond this life after I’m gone. And I will do my best to make sure she live the life she deserve, loved and happy.

Before I leave this world, I want to make sure that everyone that I love and care, are all going to be fine after I’m gone.

And for that I need power and influence. I was content on only governing this part of the Kingdom but I hear about Harald in Vangua, making a name for himself and allying himself with some of the major house there, which only increase my anxiety.

What if he comes here looking for trouble or demand back the throne. Not to mention there is the other business of me killing his father. Revenge can also be his motive.

Of course Adrian has created the law or remakes it to be more to make sure nothing like that happen but I know. And Harald know. In this era, the only law is strength.

So right now here I am in the barrack as I begin outlaying a new organization to my armies. I have created three divisions.

The Red Dragon, the Blue Dragon and the Golden Dragon.

And also the title in my army. Instead of a Knight Lord or some noble leading the march I promote those who are capable.

Vice-Captain controls the 100 man unit. Captain control the 500 man unit.

Vice Lieutenant led the 1000 man unit. Lieutenant controls the 5000 man unit. Vice Commander led the 10 thousand man unit and Commander led the 30 thousand man

There is a hierarchy where the lower one report to the bigger one but in times of war every unit can in emergency acted under one unit leader making it very flexible.

The Supreme Commander which is me controls all the troops. Transferring between troops to other units are prohibited unless under my order.

Since Arrandy is quite autonomous, and the wealthiest it is only appropriate that we have this large of an army.

A private army like this is advantageous for me because I do not need to let them go after the time expired.

There is a law that we can’t raise farmers for more than 67 days without any armed conflict because the land needs to be farmed but I make it professionals instead of relying in the strength of farmers turned soldier or nobles fealty.

Mostly the laws are enforced because if the farmland isn’t managed then surely the nobles who owned the land will suffer soil degradation and loss of profit.

The armies in other parts of the continents is largely mercenary, employed by Kings or wealthy lords who used military means and diplomacy to advance their narrow dynastic interest, and who evoked few sentiments of nationalism among their subject.

I right now have about 35 thousand troops and I already buy some of the land in Rockstill to build a military headquarters now that the King has begun moving hi royal court back to Arouen.

Of course he needs to repair back the castle. With his money of course. He also have begun collecting taxes and confiscating the land that belong to his opposition. The Crown owe us much.

The Crown and the war expenses.

For the King, we lower the interest and he promises he will pay. But for now we waive a year before they pay our money because of the cost of repairing the castle and the surrounding areas.

We did mess the castle pretty good.

I ask Kyle who I promoted into a Commander Kyle with 5000 man under his unit, so does West and Lisa to take up the position to enforce my control over Arrandy military.

And under them is their banner lord who all was given Vice-Captain title.

I fill my troop’s position of power with people I trust. After all I do not want a rebellion to happen.

West has proven his loyalty as he captured his own father and presents him to the King.

Though I suspect Henry surrendered himself. He is very smart in that he excuse himself before the decisive battle.

After I persuade King Adrian to let him go, Henry and his wife were exiled in Seren under house arrest.

Any intention of rebelling and he will be executed.

He can return after 10 years. A slight discomfort rather than having his head on a spike and West can still provide for his family.

He of course, accepts the punishment.

West looked sullen but I guess he is relieved that his father was safe and alive at the end of the war.

But it’s not like I’m doing it out of my kindness of my heart but to capture the hearts of those in the North.

If they saw that one of their chief rebel were pardoned, then surely they will stopped their resistance and put themselves under the crown.

If for example Adrian executed Henry, then surely his banner lords and relatives both in Vern and in Aetherland would take that grudge and maybe King Adrian has to put up with a revolt or a rebellion.

And this time they will move stealthily, raiding and pillaging. A mobile army is harder to destroy than one concentrated army which I can crush easily with my massive army

I want the war to end, so even though he is one of the main perpetrator in the war, pardoning him would bring a swift end to the discord.

Then I heard footsteps climbing the ladder

‘My lord, seeing us train again?’ Captain Eric greets me.

‘Yes’ I replied

‘How are the men?’

‘In high morale Maximus’

I nodded as looked at the men training with their weapons. As I looked at then I knew and feel it deep I my heart.

My time will be over but not before I eliminate the threats that threatened my family. Since I got back home I have begun construction project all around the Kingdom.

With the King expressed permission I have establish many trade companies all around the Port in the Kingdom and the Argan Dam is almost finished.

I also began establishing policy in the duchy. I have debated this with my Lawkeeper in length yesterday in the House Council.

I bind the new immigrant granting them citizenships. The fact is now that we have no immediate threat from any other nations..

Seren have little military at least compared to us thanks to the immigration policy. But to be honest the real problem of Seren is not its military scarcity but it’s ability to wage a long war.

In Aetherland we have man supplies and after the war I established many granaries to keep grain and supplies.

Even in Acro the Dragon Keep plays that part. I have also greeted my little sister just this morning, sleeping peacefully in the crib, hearing my mother singing.

I remembered the song.

My father and my mother ask about my injury in the war but I dismiss them by saying I am fine but the cold night always brings the pain.

I suffer silently.

Nowadays I’m known as Prince Arial, thanks to the title bestowed on me by the King. I also carried out fresh recruitment each year and the might of my duchy is begin to be envied by other nation.

Vern, for example.

Arrandy is after all almost an autonomous state by itself.

My word is law here and with my father abdicating from his position I am right now is Prince of Arrandy, and Duke Arial Vermont holding the power of the law and all the land in Arrandy as my father enjoy his rest and helping my mother.

I speak with my father after I return home from the war. I told him I would be busy with all the affairs that I need to handle.

I also create the Dragonguard, a guard dedicated to my family consisting of 100 men chosen from the best, everyone skilled and have loyalty and swear an oath to the protection of my family.

They are given houses and money.

As I contemplate all of this I could see from the distance a messenger is coming towards m with great urgency.

He sees me and kneeled.

‘My prince’ he said, ‘there is someone waiting to see you in the castle.’

I looked at him.

‘Can’t you see today is the day I inspect the army? I thought I told all of the people in the castle that when I’m doing military inspection I will not be bothered.’

‘Your father, your mother, and all your vassal are all there waiting for you.’

And a sweat formed in the messenger neck fearing that he has angered me. I was a little perplexed.

Why would all of my vassals and even my parent have to greet this person?

‘Who is it?’ I asked.

He looked at me and reply.

‘The Vangua King, my prince.’

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