CHAPTER 149: REGENCY
Arial returned to Arrandy with foul mood since his request for aid has been denied but seeing the preparations for the expedition had been going on with great vigor during his absence, his mood soon lift itself up.
Today after a few days of rest and spending time with Helia in bed since she was sickly for a while because of a winter cold and of fatigue probably because of her hectic schedule, Arial began preparing to march.
He has a war to win. Then surely, Arial feel, that his life will finally find some semblance of peace and tranquility.
With this war Arial would dismantle one threat to his family and at the same time fulfilling Helia ambition for the Vanguan throne.
Arial also after spending some time with Helia, holding her hand when he returned and changing the water for his wife, finally Helia has shown some improvement and that made Arial feel relieved.
Helia has recovered her health and Arial also have received guarantee from Oliver connection in Aetherland court that Adrian will not try to hinder Arial plan but neither would he offer any aid.
Adrian is steadfast in his decision and Arial is also stubborn in his last statement towards the King.
If Arial succeed in his venture, the King of Aetherland would have lose his one great vassal. However if Arial fail then Arrandy will be devoured by Aetherland.
There is risk. There is great profit.
Now there is one last arrangement that need be to be made before Arial could proceed with marching to the Kingdom of Vangua and face Harald one on one.
And he is thinking to talk about this important matter together with his trusted council to hear their opinions and concerns.
Arial push opens the council door and the council member all bowed slightly as they have been waiting for their lord arrival. Arial nod slightly.
Arial sit down and take his seat on the honored seat at the end of the long table, presiding over the lords as the other lords also sit.
‘Hmm’ Arial said as he put his hand on his chin and then he said.
‘There is a matter that need to be cleared today that requires your opinion and approval.’ Arial said.
The other lords begin paying attention. Honestly, the Duke rarely enter the Council chamber but since the war began it was almost like every day the Duke would come to the chamber and asking about reports or just for the general concern.
And since the duke is telling them this is an important matter , surely all the lords perk up their ears, to listen to the duke worries and to counsel him if he so wish.
‘I will be leaving the region for the Conquest. And there stand before me a last great measure which it is necessary for me to address before I depart from Arrandy.’
The other lords nodded.
‘Of course my lord.’ In the minds of the great lords in the chamber only one matter warrant this much thought.
The regency for Arrandy during the Duke absence.
‘When I am gone, there needs to be a regent for my region, to oversee the charters, to supervise the works.’ The other nodded in agreement.
‘This is true, my lord’ some lords chime in.
‘I have made a decision in this important matter. If one of you feel aversive to my candidate then tell me after I announce it.’
‘Yes, my lord.’ Oliver said
‘Surely my lord will choose the perfect man for the job.’ Massey supported
‘Woman’ Arial said smiling.
‘Pardon me my lord? Did you jus-‘ Massey said, his face is a mixture of disbelief and shock.
‘Helia. As my regent. If any of you object this appointment speak now or forever hold your peace.’
The other lords look at each other and nodded.
They all know Helia. Even though the Duchess is a woman, compare to all the other wives of the ruler in the Human Continent excluding the Great Renasia, she is a woman that defies convention.
To meddle in the matter of politic this much and surprisingly to be good enough that even opposition turn to allies, Helia is the model wife for a strong woman in politics in a time where men rule the world.
She is cunning in her own way ,wise in statecraft and modest in her virtue. She was like Lady Diana reborn.
The lords could find no fault in such a capable woman and the fact that she is the Duke wives descended from a Kingly line, which Arial had used to derive his claim to the Vanguan throne, only solidifies her position in Arrandy.
Even though the Duchess bear no male son for the Duke, which still remains a debate for the Duke courtiers, if by contribution alone, Helia has surpassed any noble woman contribution towards the husbands.
They have no objection to the appointment of regency by the Duke and they express it clearly.
‘We accept your wise decision my lord. There is no one wiser in statecraft then the Duchess.’
The lords all agree in this matter for the Duchess has proven herself time after time.
‘Good. This is good. Then I will appoint Massey as her military advisor, Silas as her councilors and Oliver to help her if she needs it. I will give the related offices later and appoint capable men to counsel her and help her during my absence. Her safety must be protected’ Arial ordered.
‘Massey, Oliver, Silas’ Arial said looking at these 3 men.
‘Yes my lord. Your order will be done.’ Both of these 3 spoke in unison and bowed their head.
‘Assist her in her deliberations by giving her information and advice, and to manage, under her direction, the different departments of the government. I would expect this of you for the three of you is the few I trust. Render her your aid and intelligence and strength. Your loyalty will be repaid.’
‘Of course, my lord. There is no need to be so respectful. Such words are wasted on us’ Massey said, his eyes shining with pride.
‘In the evening I will held a closed ceremony to install her into her office in public. The great noble lord is already congregating around here so they surely could attend the appointment. Send some messenger to invite them. And all of you too. You are not confined to the council chambers. I know you are all preoccupied with what is happening but taking a fresh air might help you in thinking clearly.’
‘Yes, we will attend the Duchess appointment, my lord. We are truly in need of an occasion to motivate ourselves to leave the council chambers’ they said as they smile and appreciate the Duke concerns for them.
Arial smile a satisfied smile.
‘Then if there is nothing else –‘
‘There is some news my lord’ Oliver said raising his hand
‘What news?’ Arial has already stand ready to leave the room.
‘We have in good report of the girl you once spoke.’
‘Yes’ Arial said as he sits back down into the chair. Is it Velamina he mused. No, he think again.
Arial has called off the searching expedition. Not only because it cost gold, not that he cares about the expense, but also because he remembers Velamina warnings and fears and Arial feared that he would endangered Velamina safety.
Right now Arial enemies are numerous.
If he found her or even the news that the Lord of Arrandy is searching a woman, then surely one of them could think that the woman holds some special position in the Duke heart and might even send assassin.
Just because they could not touch him doesn’t mean they couldn’t touch the others. If he is not targeted, then his enemies will target his hand and foot.
Then it is Xiyun. Arial concluded. Finally some news.
‘How is she? Is she well?’
‘She…’ Oliver hesitates to speak looking at the other lords to try to help him for what he is about to report.
‘She, what!’ Arial scowled.
‘It seems this Mu Xiyun is really wild, my lord. She has been entangled with the Xiantian Manor problem. As you know my lord after the Meet, in which you won, the martial art world is in chaos right now with new forces emerging and old forces that once so demure now began baring claws.’
‘Xiantian Manor? What is that?’ Arial said puzzled never hearing such faction or schools before.
‘It is an old force but other than that we don’t know that much about it. But in the martial art fraternity it seems that the Xiantian Manor is very formidable and very well known. It is also much respected.’
‘And how did Xiyun get in trouble with them?’
‘I don’t know but it seems our Liao Bao is also entangled in that matter.’
Arial began pinching his forehead and people could see he begin feeling annoyed.
‘How did Liao Bao too, get entangled with them? How could he not just do his job and come back here without causing problem wherever he goes. I swear my headaches started the moment I have him under my rule.’
‘We don’t know’ and this time Arial roll his eyes.
‘Don’t know? Oliver why do you think I set you up as my spymaster? Don’t you think it is your duty to know? One could say, it is your job to know.’
‘My lord I- ‘
‘Never mind’ Arial said swishing his hand.
‘Find out what happen and then report to me what really happen. Find out how Liao Bao entangled in that mess and what is Xiantian Manor.’
‘Yes, my lord.’ Oliver said bowing his head.
‘Is that all? Arial said as he waits any other person to tell him any other news.
‘Good. Then I will leave first.’
The other nodded as Arial get up from his chair and left the council chamber.
A SMALL CHURCH INSIDE THE CASTLE OF THE VERMONTS
Arial was about to go straight to the bedchamber and accompany Helia for a while and then check the war preparations at the barracks.
The large courtyard in the castle, behind it is a small church Arial has built a few years prior to facilitate those who wanted to pray.
Arial was just about to pass the church when he could hear singing. The voice is very enchanting but it is a man voice.
Arial stopped in his track and he became curios. Arial change the course of his direction as his feet brought him closer to the church door.
Arial enter the church and he hear the hymn being sung.
He could see a young man humming the sung with a joyful face while sitting in the long chair with the Book Of Light in his right hand while his left hand move with the rhythm of the song.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and light. But the greatest of these is light that drove away the darkness and shine the path of righteousness. Pray to the Light that delivers us from the great Darkness and the evil that hidden inside the heart. All Praise to him, Lords of Worlds, Sovereign of Life and Death”
‘Paul’ the voice startled the Bishop and the Bishop stops his hymn of praise to the Lord.
And he turn around to see the Duke standing near the opening of the church door and Paul could swear his eye playing trick on him for whether by reflection of the glass pane of the church , or his eyes blinded by the sun, he could see the Duke is shining, like the angel in the stories of old.
‘Ahh, my lord. Fancy seeing you here. Never thought I would see you enter here, my lord.’ The Bishop said regaining his composure. Arial smile.
‘It is my church, Paul.’
‘Ah no, my lord. It is the Lord church. The Lord Above.’ He said as his eyes squinting and he could see the light no longer.
‘Is that so? May I intrude upon you with your Lord Above?’ Arial said almost in a playful tone.
‘Please do my lord and you are not intruding, my lord.’
‘Is that so? Glad to hear it.’ Arial take his seat looking at the small figurine of the Prophet in the center of the altar standing majestically, a halo of suns behind him and a light like thing trying to show itself from the Prophet gripped tight hand.
There are many figurines of the Prophet each one different from the last. There are many different version of the prophet all different from each other.
The Vernian church insist that the Prophet has a beard, the Corian church says that the prophet has no such beard, Vernian church says the prophet has a long hair, the Corian church say he have a short hair.
They both disregard each other opinion but this does not manifested into an outright conflict considering this is the branches problem as it is terms.
One that does not change the true message of the prophet. Message of peace, love and compassion, though Arial rarely see such values in churchmen.
At least in the one he meets.
Maybe in some parish deep in the countryside, the churchmen is really like them but Arial dealings with the Office of the Holies made Arial realize that most of the churchmen in the Holy Cities is like rats.
‘Praying my lord?’ Paul asked as he could see the Duke is lost in his thoughts.
‘No, Paul. Trying to ease my worried heart and settle my thoughts. Do not mind me Paul. Please continue your praise to the Lord.’ Arial said but Paul looks at the Duke with a glint of mischievousness and there is some satisfaction in his expression.
‘There is no need for it anymore now that my lord is here.’
‘And why is that?’ Arial asked puzzled by Paul statement
‘I went to the church to converse with God, to ask him to grant me guidance and I kneel to the Lord as I pray to him. A prayer that has been answered.’
‘Oh? What is the prayer?’
‘For anyone to enter the church so I could converse to alleviate my boredom’ the Bishop said, his mouth form a curved smile.
Arial almost chuckle. This Bishop is witty.
‘And am I that anyone?’
‘I suppose so, don’t you think? I pray to God Above and here you are.’
Haah, and here I am.
‘Fine, Paul. I will entertain you. Considering I too have nothing to do at the moment and we are the only one in this church, I find no reason to reject fine companionship. What is it you like to converse about?’ Arial said.
Arial also have nothing to do and conversing with Paul would be interesting.
‘How about your recent decision to grant the regency to a woman? A bold decision if I have to say so myself. I heard the Papnoticon army is not too happy with your decision. The Vernian church is also not too happy on your decision.’
And then he quoted on one passage in the Book of Light
‘Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. Let them not meddle in their husband business for they will invite chaos. Let them not meddle in the state business for they will bring downfall to all that is proposed. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.’
Arial almost laugh.
‘Oh, you have heard it. News spread fast.’
‘It was like a wildfire if I have to liken it to something. The crier is loud enough and enthusiastic enough’ Paul said.
‘And what of it?’ Arial asked
‘Does the church disapprove?’ Arial said.
‘They do, my lord. Vernian church is fanning their face with their hand by such a scandalous decision. If not for the backing of the Supreme Papnoticon in the Holy Cities the Vernian church might have sent their delegation asking you to rescind your orders.’
‘Why the discrimination?’ Arial said.
‘Levitia discriminate no race and the Church take on that policy to honour Levitia deed yet woman are discriminated against. I would not say the Church policy on race is one that embraced by all the people of the continent but still that is leap in humanity. To not hate someone solely by their race. I could find no idea more thought provoking, more compassionate, closer to the vision of a perfect world. On the other hand, I could never understand the hate that churches have against woman.’ Arial said
‘It is rich coming from the very same man that fans the flames of superior race of the Caelum speech’ Arial just smiles sheepishly. Then Paul continues.
‘Men are superior to woman. Women have half the wit, half the strength.’ Paul said reciting the argument most Vernian Priest always say in their sermon. Arial chuckle.
‘I see enough in this world to believe otherwise’ Arial said but Arial discerning eyes did not leave Paul eyes.
‘Well that is the church opinion. What of yours?’ Arial asked Paul
‘My opinion my lord? Isn’t the church opinion is my opinion?’
‘Hmmm, I refuse to believe that.’ Paul looks at the duke and sighed.
Even among the priest and Bishop the Duke is known to be a staunch supporter of the church but the council member all knew that the Duke care not about religion and only maintain his amiable relation with the church because of the influence it holds.
And truthfully Paul wants to know what his lord believes. Paul himself is not really that enthusiastic about the church policy on many things.
He believes in the God of Light but his belief in the church has dwindled after all these years. And the Duke picked up on that.
‘Alas, it seems nothing escapes you. Not all the Church opinion is my opinion. The church policy on woman is rather harsh if I have to say so myself. It is almost tragic considering how Lucellian faith started.’
‘Oh? Tragic? How do you mean?’ Arial said curios. And the Bishop smile.
‘Have I got your attention? Truly the Duchess did not disappoint.’ Paul had heard from the Duchess that the Duke is a very curios man.
He likes to have his curiosity sated if he is provoked. He could listen to you for hours if he is curios and have interest enough.
And from what the Duchess told Paul the Duke has an obsession with Levitia collecting any book that have the Great Hero trace.
‘The duchess says something about me?’
‘That she did. As you know we rarely talk and I so like to talk to you. So, I ask the Duchess of the things you would find interesting and how to capture your attention’
‘For whatever reason?’ Arial asked.
‘To preach of course.’ Paul reply. Arial laughed.
‘I have contributed enough to your church, building monastery and churches all over Arrandy, gold presented to the Holy Cities that could feed a city for a month and you doubt my sincerity to the church? This is absurd.‘
‘I never doubted your sincerity my lord, it is your piety that I doubt.’ Paul said
‘So you will preach to me?’
‘You will find me a hard man to preach towards.’
‘And you will find me a very persuading man’
‘Anyway,’ Arial said changing the topic of the conversation ‘what do you mean by a tragic history?’
The Bishop knew from hearsay that the Duke is very curios of thing he didn’t know so that is the reason why Paul said it, that long shameful past of the church.
‘Well, it is an obscure story and not many churches recognizes this…to be accurate all the churches denounce this story but one. The Order of the Truth once crying from village to village, cities to cities telling this story of how one woman death becomes the beginning of the church. They are also called Nasranian’
Nasranian, Arial mused. One of the Thirteen Tribes other than the Arakians.
‘Ahh, come on Paul. Stop building the suspense and tell me. You are not Silas so speak clearly without too long delay. God knows I have enough drama in my life’ the bishop chuckle.
‘Then I need to start from the beginning of the story.’
‘Fine’ Arial reply
‘I will tell you the story of the prophet’
‘Yes’ Arial said nodding his head.
‘As you know, no one knows his name. He live during what he himself call the Age of Beginning, when men fears the dark, and Gods, devil, demons, evil things, dark things roamed the earth wreaking havoc and misery. The giants and dragon warred each other creating continents and deep sea, titans eat humans and destroy Kingdom by a swish of their hands, dragons burn cities and villages to ashes, faeries and fay play with our destiny and fates, Orc ruled the vast Plains, the merman and their sea monster terrorize the Dark Sea, eating anything that dare sail their waters, the age when the Elves read the stars and converse with the forest spirits, an age where God dole out divine punishment everyday as we become the toys of cruel fate and twisted destiny. Men were the weakest, uncivilized and disorganized among all the creatures and races that live on Merdgard. Killing, pillaging, raping, all manner of sins were allowed in absence of any great moral code to lead them out of the darkness.’
‘Merdgard?’ Arial asked.
‘It’s the name of the world before we know it. Now it is called Earth but that is because of the First Generation that coined the word Earth. But before the world we live in is called Merdgard.’ Paul explained
Arial listened intently but still he doesn’t understand. Where is this woman that founded the church?
‘You are not saying that the prophet is a wom-
‘HAHAHA’ Paul laughed out loud and almost stumble back.
‘No, no. The Prophet is a man.’ There is a tear on his eyes, because of his laughing and the Duke could be seen a little embarrassed to be laugh so hard.
‘Anyway my lord let me finish the story. So, the prophet is known by many people and people all over came to hear his teaching , people from the Thirteen Tribes, some opposed him, some supported him, as the story about him grew and he did his best to spread the truth. However many do not know this that actually even though the name of the Prophet isn’t known, his sister name is otherwise known. And very famous at that.’
‘What? That is….I never even heard of it.’
‘You have heard of her name. Thousands of time. You just don’t know it.’
‘Oho. So what it is? Her name?’
‘Lucille’ Paul replies.
Lucille…and then something crossed Arial mind.
‘Lucellian!’ Arial exclaimed joyfully. Paul smile as it seems that the Duke has connected the dots.
‘The story goes that the Prophet loves his sister very much after his parent was killed by Dark things and he protected his sister fiercely. But his sister was killed by evil men. Some say it is bandits. Some say it is people of other villages who took a fancy on his sister and try to rape her and she die protecting her chastity. There are many stories. Anyways that is not the point. The prophet agonized over the tragedy that has befallen him. He grieves. He mourns. He cried out to the sky with tears of blood asking the Gods why him? Is it not enough that his parent is taken away from him? Is that still not enough? He cried and he screamed. He cursed and he pleads. Some say this lament of him lasted a week, some say it is three days, while some say it is 49 days.’
‘And then?’ Arial asked his eyes bright curios and interested in Paul story.
‘And then he tries to find answer. Are the Gods so cruel? Are these gods that lord over humans any better than a robbing human? Are these Gods the true God of the Universe? Surely not! The Prophet would yell. What God find it pleasurable for them to watch human suffer? Why would they torture those that he created? What is the difference between Gods and demon then? And so he thinks over this difficult matter of life and death, of good and evil, in a secluded lake in a middle of nowhere until as recorded by his disciple his word in Awakening ‘
“I have been awoken by a calling. Light show itself to me, telling me to become the guide to enlightenment of the soul, and the knowledge to lead humanity out of darkness. Salvation is here. Salvation is here! ’
Arial nodded. Then Paul continues.
‘He prophesied that there is 7 Ages after him until God will begin the End of Days. And to commemorate the truth he had found, and the truth he had spread, his disciples after the death of the Prophet called themselves Lucelian. Notice that they take the name of the sister as the symbol of their faith.’
Arial listen to the story with great attention and fascinated by the stories.
‘Tragic isn’t it’ Paul said.
‘Imagine. Women were venerated in the past even the name of this religion come from the name of the woman. But now only one woman worthy of mention in the history of the church and that is Apostle Di-‘
‘Wait’ suddenly Arial held up his hand as he sense something important has passed him by.
‘Yes, my lord. ‘
‘Seven Ages? What is that?’
‘You don’t know? The Doomsday Book.’ Paul said. Arial shakes his head.
‘It is mention in it, the Seven Ages after him that would lead to the End of Days.’
‘Tell me’ Arial said, almost ordering. Paul is amazed that the duke does not know this. It is not that obscure of a book.
Doomsayers always refer to this book even church head refer to this book when great calamity happens.
‘First as the book says after the Age of Beginning, would begin the Age of Gods where gods will warred against each other until only a few would survives, their collateral victims is humans. Then Age of Man marking the beginning of the rise of a chosen race. (Humans). Then Age of Heroes. Then the Age of Emperors. Age of Revolution, Age of Exploration and then Age of Extinction. This are the seven ages. This is all known from the translation by of a certain Priest in the Asterosi continent’
Arial listen to this with great fear. Seven Ages. Then Arial remembered that Gaveror once spoke of the Age of Man and Age of Gods.
‘Did the Age of Heroes pass already?’
Or is he living in that Age right now?
‘What age we are right now?’ Arial asked.
‘Even the Church doesn’t know that question my lord. But it is safe to say we are living in the age of Man or probably Age of Heroes.
‘Why do you say that?’
‘The Age of Gods has ended. This is known.’ Arial nodded.
‘However what?’ Arial asked again
‘There is one thing that has always fascinated me about the Ages dawning.’ He said looking at the distance, smiling a mysterious smile.
‘The Ages Prophecy’ he said.
‘Oh, there is such thing?’
‘There is, my lord. The book says that when every Age begins, there must be one that is blessed by Light, The Blood of Light to start the event that is prophesied.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘In the Age of Gods, the Prophet has prophesied that there will descend a race so powerful that they will end the Age of Gods and these people were by many consensus of the Church is the First Generation. In the Age of Man, the prophet has prophesied that the Birth of the great hero will be marked by seven stars in the sky shining brightly announcing the arrival of the man who would start the beginning of man supremacy. And this is widely known by the church community that the man in the prophecy is Levitia.’
‘And what of Age of Heroes?’ Arial asked impatient. It is clear now that he is living in the Age of Heroes and even though Arial dislike prophecy what is the harm in knowing?
Or maybe it is because of his curiosity. His prophecy he is not interested in hearing about it. But others prophecy? He has no problem hearing it.
‘The Prophet said something about two lives and choices. Of great war, of great sorrows. The chosen ones always have to face such ordeals. God always test his subjects in various ways.’
‘You don’t remember?’ Arial said.
‘It has been so long since I last read it my lord. Though if you are interested I will go to the Holy Land with your permission and read it again for y-‘
‘It is fine’ Arial said as he leaned back to the chair.
Then the church door opens. Arial look at some of the man coming to pray and Arial stand up from his seat.
‘Paul, you have treated me to a great knowledge. Maybe it is not so bad conversing with you.’
‘And me, you , my lord. It has been a pleasure and honour for you to hear me rant. You are a good listener, my lord. A great quality and virtue in itself.’
Arial laughed a little before realizing he is in a church and that his laugh might disturb the praying.
‘Maybe I will even grant you a diocese when I conquer Vangua.’ Arial offer.
‘I dare not ask such honour.’
Arial began walking to the door entrance but before he did he turn around and with a smirk he said
‘Ask and you shall be given’