AOH – Chapter 73

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CHAPTER 73: THE MEETING BETWEEN THE PRINCE AND KING

ARIAL

THE CASTLE

GRAND HALL

A FEW HOURS EARLIER

I entered the grand hall and I could see all my vassals are there waiting for me. The atmosphere is tense as I heard murmurs.

They are whispering something. Then they recognized me and the whispering stopped. I look at them, some of them are nervous, a nervous excitement on the air of my grnad hall.

They all bowed as I proceed to enter. My mother and father is also present. My father sits among the lords and my mother beside him, holding Adrianna on her arms. Adrianna is cooing and almost cried.

My mother consoles her. I glance at my mother and my mother nodded her head, telling me not to worry.

I could see a young man waiting for me standing in the middle. Some lords tried to invite him to seat among them but he insists in standing.

He gestured them to return to their seats, but the lords seems uncomfortable seeing the young man standing in the middle of the grand hall.

I could felt it then.

That must be the King. Edward Merovich. THE King. I took a glance on his features and I was surprised, because it is different than what I have imagined.

His face is misshapen, and he crunched his back, but I can feel the determination that he had, his face showing no fear in a foreign court.

I imagine a man of his position must felt fear, to come here, because the history of Vangua and ours is a murky one.

Vangua have always been bitter enemies with the Dukedom but no war ever declared.

Usually there is dispute over land far south of the Dukedom. To think he dares show his face here! This showed that he is fearless.

But thinking about it, anyone that is scared can be fearless. I smiles a little. After all, bravery and fear go hand in hand.

I gestured one of the lords to come near me as the King look at me with amazement.

The lord quickly comes to me aware of me calling him. He was nervous and glancing both at me and the King.

‘Why is he standing there? Offer him to sit’

‘He has been like that since the beginning, demanding to see you. Unless he sees you, he will stand there. That is why the lords send a messenger to invite you back to the castle.’

‘Why didn’t they themselves tell me this news?’

‘They fear you would be angry so they didn’t dare’

I look at the lords and they all avert their gaze. Well, the King is also a problem. After all, who is stubborn enough to force my entire vassal to dare disturb me when I have already told them only to disturb me on matter of grave importance?

He is stubborn.

Like all Kings. King of Vangua. Runaway King of Vangua. And now he has maybe brought his problem on my castle.

‘Your majesty’ I said as I take my seat at the highest chair in my grand hall. He may be a King but the lord of this castle is me.

He recognized me; the expression on his face was amazement and awe. He must not be expecting a very young man to be the lord of this castle.

He bowed a little. But I just nodded. In some way, I have been accustomed to live this life. Life of a lord son, at first, and now a High Lord.

And I have no obligation to bow to him. He is a King. But not my King.

‘It is an honour to meet the young lord of Acro, the young Duke and Prince.’

‘I couldn’t say the same your majesty. I am a busy man, occupied with many endeavours. I know of your disappearance which begs the question why do you come here? Certainly you did not come here for some conversation.’

‘No I’m not.’ He said

‘Where is your Knight your majesty?’ I asked realizing not even one of his lords and Knights is here.

‘I ordered them to stay outside. I wanted to speak to you as a supplicant. I should act as supplicants.’

‘Hmmm’ I looked at the young king. Whatever he wanted to discuss with me, I guess it have something to do with the rising of the Orleans family in the South.

Or maybe the rebellions that is happening in his county. Or a million other reasons. Whatever it is, I smell trouble.

‘Clear this room’ I ordered.

‘Son!’ my father exclaimed.

‘It is alright father. Let me speak with him.’

The other lords bow their head as they head out. I squeeze the golden handle of my chair and got up from the seat.

The pain suddenly strikes but I regulate my breathing and the poison recedes from the center of my energy.

A slight inconvenience for now but it will encroach me one day, if I have not found a cure by then.

I know people said the poison has no cure, but since when I took people words so blindly? If there is no cure I’ll find it.

If there is nowhere to be found, I’ll make it.

I walk to him when the room is empty. He waited for me to come to him. At least, even in foreign land he still looks like a King.

‘Let us sit and talk like men.’ I said when I approached him.

‘I would appreciate that.’

We sit down on a table. I took a bottle of wine from the cabinets and bring it to the table as I poured him some wine.

The wine is a high quality wine from Ranoa, a gold colour liquid, soft and rich and beautiful as I have once tasted.

It took me a 1000 gold to bought one bottle of this and I only serve it in the most auspicious occasion.

Mother and father always like to raid it when they were arguing and making up.

‘My lord!’ He said shocked that I humbled myself to pour his wine and also his eyes widened when he sees the liquid.

‘Riella Wine?’ he asked in utter amazement and I just nodded. It is my custom to flaunt my family wealth to the nobles and hide it from the common people.

The lesson I learned about envy, is seared on my mind. Gain the common folks heart and they’ll worship you, gain the nobles respect and they will die for you.

‘My lord, please let me do this’ he said almost snatching the wine bottle from me.

‘This is fine’ I said.

‘In front of my vassals I need to act tough or they will accuse me of weakness.’

He nodded. And his eyes showed understanding.

‘I understand. I too had to do as you did even to my family.’ His eyes looked away, like he remembers something painful in his past

I look at him and I could see he must have experienced a lot.

‘Tell me, Your Majesty’ he shakes his head.

‘Call me Edward, Lord Arial.’

‘Then you will call me Arial’ I said.

‘Hahahaha’ he laughed

‘Fine. I will call you Arial and you will call me Edward.’

Then for a while silence. I clapped and called the attendants to serve the King some grapes and fruit dishes, for he must have come far and I intend to give him the hospitality he deserves.

I serve him a second wine.

The hard but intoxicating, Roselle wine, one that I knew he would recognize since this wine is made in Cori.

But like the golden wine, this too is expensive. 1200 gold for one bottle. And scarlet like blood when I poured it over in the King cup.

The King in his haste, drinks the precious wine in a single motion.

I quickly intervenes the King. Surprised at this haste reaction by the King. He is impulsive sometimes I mused.

‘Allow me, Edward to show the right way in drinking wine.’

‘There is a way in drinking wine?’

‘ There is.’

‘I’ve never heard of such thing.’ Edward said puzzled.

‘Please let me show you’ I said.

‘I will take the glass in my palm and warm it up slowly. We swirl the wine in circular motion in order to smell its fragrance. ‘ I said slowly and calmly explaining it

‘But that is not enough surely?’ The King asked.

‘True. So we take it to our nostrils and smell the aromas-‘

‘And then? When do we drink it?’ the King said impatient. I smile a mischievous smile

‘Then…’ I replied

‘We put it back on the table and talk about it.’ The King looked at me. Just looked at me.

The King then laughed sincerely since the first time he set his foot here. He doubled himself and releases a cackle of laughter.

‘True!’ he exclaimed.

‘True indeed!’ as he gulped the wine and praise it’s rich texture, it’s aromatic smell and the beautiful scarlet liquid.

Then after some small tales and exchanging battle stories, finally the King revealed his intention coming here.

‘I came here to ask for your help in sheltering me and my lords.’

I ponder Edward request as the silence fills the hall, and Edward sit uncomfortably waiting for my answer.

I understand what he is asking but if I shelter him here, then this will complicate Aetherland relations with Vangua which is already strained right now.

‘Can you not do that simple favour for me, lord?’ he asked

‘First, I would like you to tell me what happened in Vangua that force you to run.’

‘Then hear my story’ as he tell me the story of his assassination attempts, his suspicion for the death of his father and the traitorous Orleans family that constantly trying to undermine his power.

In my opinion the Anglais-Raxons is disloyal to their lawful King and betrayed him by rebelling

‘This is….awful’ I said.

‘Please, you must!’ He said, desperation in his voice, fear in his eyes, and uncertainty in his tone. He fears the Orleans. He fears them more they fear his old enemies.

I suspected Edward is a very smart politician. The fact that he turns to old enemies instead some family friend’s shows he does not trust easily.

He must know sometimes enemies can be a greater ally than a friend.

He must smell an opportunity after realizing the Dukedom has been united. Old grudges may have been forgotten.

‘I must?” I said my tone is cold.

I could not let him have the upper hand in this negotiation. If not, he will take advantage of my hospitality in later future.

‘You could’ he said

I looked at Edward and said.

‘I could’ and I ponder whether I should

‘Fine, Edward. You will find me to be an able protector. Under my region you are protected. I give you my word. I shall be your shield if the Orleans dare chase you here. Let them contend with my armies and my walls. But only if your enemy is the Orleans. Any other enemies you have made will not be my responsibility.’

I did not make the decision lightly.

When he tells me about the Orleans I finally understand. Harald is up to his old tricks. In Dostov he tries to elevate his grandfather cause.

In Vangua he tries to make his father in law King which will make him a Prince. Ambition drives him. And there is nothing more dangerous than an old enemies rising to power.

‘Thank you Arial’

‘Do not mention it.’

He then release a relieved sigh

‘I do not think you would allow it’ the King said.

‘Why do you think that?’ I said, though to be honest I have half of mind rejecting his request.

‘Aetherland is undergoing much internal turmoil these recent years and knowing that you are central to the King of Aetherland, I have thought you will reject me. Not to mention the past that Vangua had with the Dukedom’

I nodded.

I have no intention in interfering with Vangua politics but I understand the danger posed by Harald.

Never underestimate your enemies. It has become the ruin of many capable men.

‘Edward, I will send my spymaster to Vangua to collect information and see what is going on. For now you may take up residence in one of my mansions in Arrandy. Tell it to Oliver and he will guide you to the mansion.’

Then I got up and Edward too. He shakes my hand as a sign of solidarity. He is beaming at me. Then he was about to say something. But he caught himself.

‘Thank you Arial.’

‘It is only expected of me.’ He hugged me, a brotherly hug, so I hugged him back.

Then I say to him

‘As you are the rightful King of Vangua, I will try to gain the Church approval to you and force the Orleans to give back the throne to you.’

‘You would do that!’ Edward said shocked.

‘Yes, this is too bold for a noble family to even rebel against their own liege.’ Then I called back my vassal as my father socialise with the King and even my mother who show Edward, my sister.

I ordered Oliver to treat the King in the best possible service we can offer him. If I put him as King in Vangua than Aetherland position is secured, no enemies at the borders.

Then Aetherland can pursue economic goals and develops internal prosperity. I will also have to send a letter to the other Kings to support Edward claim to the Vangua throne.

If Edward becomes King, surely he would not forget my kindness and the relations between Arrandy and Vangua will be generally amicable.

And he is Caelum like me.

I can even send my courtiers to his courts. For the Church I need to send Silas. That man always has a way with words and he can socialize with anyone.

Adrian will understand.

Oh, Adrian. I need to also send a letter to him about this. West can be sent to Vangua to help with the military threat, Oliver can be sent for espionage purpose.

No, I shake my head.

Oliver needs to gather more information about the movement beyond the sea. They escorted Edward out and I assemble the Council again.

I quickly went to the Chambers, the Council is already waiting on me, bringing their documents prepare to answer any of my question.

‘Oliver’ I said as I begin the meeting

‘Yes, my lord!’

‘Give me some information about Orleans.’ Then he called his attendants to bring him a bag. After a while he presented to me the document he has about the Orleans.

The Orleans surprisingly is like my family. Their lands made them wealthy but different from my family they did not spend it on their city or improve the livelihood of its people.

I look at their financial statement

‘Where did you get this Oliver’ I said shocked that Oliver even gets this information.

‘A little bird told me’ he grinned.

Well, I have chosen the perfect man for the job. I looked back at the documents.

The lands and wealth of the Orleans family made it outstandingly the strongest in Vangua, with about twice the income of any other family in the land.

Oliver gives statement, his analysis about Lord Jean Orleans.

He thought Orleans ‘is the most cautious in counsel and the most active in war’, with an ‘equable temperament’ and a penchant for hard work, eloquent, courteous and polite to all, treating inferiors kindly. ‘

A vice regal, second only to the King.

Now I understand why Edward is so wary of the Orleans. They acted like the land is theirs. Not only that. It seems they are also very popular with the common folk.

Maybe the rumors that Jean killed Edward father is not just a rumour.  But surely the Orleans will face much opposition if they take the throne forcefully.

So I decided.

‘Oliver’

‘Yes’ Oliver perked up.

‘I want you to spread a rumour.’

‘Yes, my lord. What will it be?’ He said bringing out a parchment and ink to write my words.

‘Spread a rumour that’s says the dragons have extended their hospitality to the Crowned Lion.’ Oliver looks at me and he understands my underlying meaning.

I’m doing a preemptive attack if the Orleans decided to displace the King of Vangua. I need to act as an arbiter.

If the Orleans did not accept my terms it will be harder for me. I have no time to spare to go wage a war on foreign lands when a threat beyond the sea has begun to move.

I need to focus on the bigger picture here. The bigger picture is the Invasion. The reports of Dark Lands movement worry me.

I hope the Orleans can see reason which is why I will press them diplomatically. The Church will be an important tool in this negotiation.

The Orleans has wealth.

But my family also has wealth. I can bribe some Vorthian pirates to raid Vangua ports, mercenary from Cori to raid their towns, even employ covert operation in Corian lands and flame their resentments to the Anglais Raxons population.

If they think I only know to go to battle using swords and blade, then they have underestimated me.

Then there is also the influence of the Church. My family relations with both Churches are very amiable.

My family made many contributions to the church in form of gold and building many church around the region.

I also ask Oliver to send a letter to Lord Jean to ask him to come to Acro to settle this dispute he have with King Edward.

Certainly at first he would object but after a few months of pressure surely he would relent to come, even if it’s just to show his desire to mend relations.

Then after that I dismiss the Council. I was about to go resume my patrolling when I saw Kyle run towards me, smiling.

‘Kyle!’

‘Arial!’ he said his voice excited.

‘Want to see something interesting?’

‘Something interesting?’

‘Yes.’ He is panting.

‘Sit down first.’ He quickly sit down.

‘Water’ he yelled and the attendant brings him water and poured it into the glass.

‘You see I was patrolling around the city, like usual since I was bored last night after sleeping-‘ He must have realized my face expression. I know what he did last night. Seducing some girls. I have warned him not to that. If the Church knows about it, then I will get an earful from the Bishop and the Priest, asking why I keep such a man close to my administration.

‘Alright. Not important. But this is what I saw when I was patrolling. I was just minding my business sipping some wine in some fine establishment, on the third floor when I saw a young man so beautiful that I couldn’t believe that he is a man.’

‘Stop it Kyle. I swear if this is another story of your conques-‘

‘No that’s not it. Sheesh. Impatient. So, I look again. And you know what I discover.’

‘What?’ I said in a boring manner.

‘Helia.’

‘What!’ I said shocked.

‘Yes, Helia disguised as a man when suddenly her pouch was robbed and she chase her thief.’

‘What! Why didn’t you help her?’

‘She can handle herself. ‘

My plan on patrolling the army has to be delayed.

‘Let us venture to the city before she makes to many messes.’ I know Helia .She is kind but sometimes she makes a mess with her kind intention. I remembered when she was chasing this one rapist when they fight in a village.

3 of the 12 house were destroyed.

Thankfully her family has a lot of gold so they can pay back and rebuilt the house. I rushed to my stables and whistle when the sound of hoof ran to me.

Fire bringer is free to move but he always come back when I whistled.

I jumped onto his back and ride him out with Kyle behind me.

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