CHAPTER 81: HARALD OATH
The sun rises and the castle gets brighter.
The servant began their days, the market open their stalls and I….started going down to the stables, my troops already waiting for me.
I enjoyed the brisk morning air as I walked to the stables from the second floor. Descending the stairs, I began thinking about what has happened and what is about to happen.
Today Supervisor Zhang Liao Bao has started his journey with the representatives to Vern at dawn.
With 10 captains they depart in small group.
According to the plan they will stop at Shanhai Pass and try to win the Austen family approval. This is crucial if I want a total victory and peace secured in the Northern border.
The enmity between the Emperor and the Austen family is at its height.
In my original timeline even when the demon army attack the Austen still at war with the Emperor with no victory at sight for both of these enemies.
Their enmity all started like any story would. Because of a woman.
It is ironic that the greatest war at that time also started with a woman. Thinking about it, most of the war that George the Fifth has started, most of them is because of a woman.
The story goes, that one of Nigel Austen sister was drunk in one of the palace of the Forbidden City in one of the emperor famous balls.
The Emperor saw this and raped her. Of course Jeanne Austen, the girl in question kept quiet until of course Nigel found out.
Considering they are powerful at the South they quickly take control of the region there and do not answer to the central government anymore.
In other words they rebelled.
So, started their war of attrition with each other. But there is no marching involved. Austen stay at their fort and Central government sent battalion of army every month but in all sense Austen control the region near Taiyuan and rule it like a regional Overlord.
And so there is this sense of stability between these two forces. Of course it started after the Succession War between Adrian and Alderam.
Even before then, Austen and Montblanc has never been in good terms but raping Nigel sister is the last straw.
Maybe the Emperor raped Nigel sister because he knows he can’t defeat Nigel if he tries to attack him directly.
Maybe it is because of his lust. Who knows?
So that is how their enmity started. Gaining Austen as an ally would be beneficial to the rebel if they decide to rule.
However today I am busy preparing to depart to Vangua. Harald invitation has been received and I have informed him I would accompany Edward back to seat on his throne.
He has also received news that I will bring a few of my troops to accompany the entourage. 5000 troops are a few of course.
He has agreed to the request. I don’t think he has a choice. With unrest every day and rebellion springing up in the Kingdom, Vangua needs a ruler.
And majority of the people in the Kingdom of Vangua is of Lucellian faith. The Church now that is a hammer that need to be used carefully and prudently, the help which that the Church exerted on their family must have shaken their ambition.
For now they must acquiesce to the common folk outcry. Harald, whatever his fault, is an able ruler and brilliant in sensing where the wind is blowing.
To be honest I have no enmity towards Harald but I do not know how he thinks.
I did kill his father after all. I hate the father but I don’t hate the son. But I know that Harald will not show his displeasure with me so openly, one aspect that differentiates him and his father.
He is smarter thus making him more formidable. If he is not capable why would people die for him? If he is not capable why would people follow him?
King Edward on the other hand, will be entrusted to Kyle and West who will accompany and guard him to Vangua. Of course I will also follow this entourage
Helia will accompany my parents and Lisa will also take care of my parents.
Edward will be accompanied by his lord and some Priest and Bishop to fill the Church in Vangua. MY Bishop and Priest that will act as my spies and fight for Arrandy interest in Vangua court
The sound of the horse neighing can already be heard.
The stable master sees me and nodded. He opens the stable and I whistle. Firebringer sauntered slowly to me.
‘My lord’ the stable master greets me. I just nodded as Firebringer approached me. I stroke his hair.
Even till now, no one can ride it unless it is me. This is a loyal steed that has accompanied me to many battles.
I jumped to Firebringer and he neighed happily.
‘Ouit’ I yelled and I took the reins as I ride him outside the castle where outside my entourage already waits for me.
Edward is seen in the carriage with his trusted Lord. I pass them by and join Kyle and West in the front.
‘My lord’ they bowed slightly when they notice me. I looked behind me and I could see the army and I yelled
“Let us go” With that I tightened the rein and urged Firebringer to sprint and he ran like the wind. With that I began riding to Vangua.
OUTSIDE THE CITY OF VERGEL
We arrived at the city of Vergel at sunset. The sun lowers beyond the horizon as I sighed. It has been a long journey. It has taken a few weeks to reach Arleans.
Thankfully we have not encountered any difficulties during our journey. The sky is orange with red hues. The clouds appear back lit with the vibrant colors. The hills look like a silhouette of a giant.
‘The fading warmth of daylight will bring darkness. And darkness beckons’ I recite
The sound of the vigilark birds is slowly disappearing, only the sound of the leaves rustling around the campsite.
I have arrived outside of Arleans, pass Darc, the former region of the king. The coronation will be held at Arleans and we have camped outside the city of Vergel.
I have approached Edward tent to see how he is doing. Outside we are waiting for the Orleans to invite us to the city.
‘Will it be long now Arial?’ Edward asked me.
I have prepared my army with great training if somehow Harald wish to attack us. Caution and vigilant I reminded myself.
‘It will not be long now, Edward but I fear for your throne and in that sense I would like to urge you caution even when they put the crown at your head. Always be vigilant” I advise.
‘The state of preparedness that Harald has prepared his armies shows how much he wanted your throne.’
‘What made you say that?’ he said more inquisitive than shock.
Edward is no idiot. Of course he knows Harald is eyeing his throne.
‘I believe Harald has formed some elaborate plan to take the throne if he had not been pressured by the church. That is of course, only my assumption but the way he carried himself during your absence only strengthen my belief of his unwise ambition.’
He might even have poisoned or assassinate the King if he has perfected his plan.
‘Any basis for that assumption if I may ask, Arial?’
‘I say that Edward, because my spies here in Vangua have informed me of some mysterious meeting that Harald has schedule for himself. After he were named Lord of Arleans, Harald made a tour on the Kingdom, reaching as far as Cori but also including Freya and Southern Cori respectively. He made arrangements for receiving help from certain foreign powers if he should need it at any time. This to me strikes me as a pre-emptive attack, an open declaration, though a subtle one, hinting that he wants your throne. To me, he looks like he wants to usurp your position.’
‘Hmm’ Edward said contemplating.
Then Edward said.
‘If that is true then Harald may have tried to find allies who would hamper the movement of his rivals to the throne. And he might even plan for my assassination after his plan in place. He may have changed the nature of Vangua throne if he only you did not help me’ Edward said.
Like I thought. He is no idiot. No….he is smart. But one of his words I couldn’t quite grasp the meaning. Change the nature of Vangua throne? And this time it was I that is perplexed.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Elective’ he said.
‘Of course it has its limit but Harald is trying to revive an ancient council when I disappear. The council of nobles was once practiced in the Vangua Kingdom but abolished when it gives too much power to the nobles and even created some shadowy alliance of nobles creating a puppet King. Of course even so, they are limits of power of the council, the process involves in the act of election and the body which exercises the elective right. A king should always be chosen from a Kingly stock and this idea is far older than any sentiment of patriotic love. It is more of recognition then an election when all nobles recognise the man as King.”
I nodded in understanding. An elective monarchy I wondered. Ridiculous.
‘Rest for a while Edward while we wait. My troops will guard you’
I said as traces of tiredness began to set in. Then I was about to go patrolling the woods with Kyle and West but Edward yelled wait.
‘Yes, Edward’ and then he look at me. He hugs me.
‘I have never met any man more dashing then you are my lord. Your help have been a huge boon for me and your treatment of me has filled my heart with great awe.’
Arial also felt the same kinship from Edward. They are like brothers. Not to mention their blood. Blood of Caelum.
‘I deserve no such words Edward.’
‘No’ he said determine.
‘You deserve something more than this’ he said. And he nodded to himself ‘and I got the perfect way to express it to you.’
I just smile not knowing what Edward has planned. If only I knew at that time…
CASTLE OF ARLEANS
We have been received with warm welcome into the city with all the nobles from all parts of Vangua is here to once again recognise the sovereignty of King Edward.
There are 22 lords here at the castle excluding the King.
Vangua is a huge Kingdom divided into 22 region rule by a Duke that governs the lesser nobles and the King rules the duke.
However the difference between Edward rule and my rule is that the land of the Duke is theirs and it is their fealty that becomes the backbone of his strength for the throne.
Me, on the other hand, the land is all mine and I rent it to the lord under me, which meant if they displeases me, I could take back my land and instead of a noble army for any noble house the state of Arrandy have a state soldiers, obeying only my orders.
Which is why none of my nobles lords dare defied my orders. Their life and livelihood depends on my grace.
The coronation has begun with the Bishop of Lysander that came from Cori Grand church and Vern Bishop also came to bless the King while the nobles even Harald kneel, recognising Edward as their King.
The Vernian Bishop anointed the crown. The Crown is plated in sterling gold with red diamonds going completely around the crown.
The design of the full crown is lower in the back than it is in the front.
The Cori Church anointed the sceptre and both of the Bishop present both of these items to the King as the King kneel and the Bishop crowned Edward head and the Cori Church hand him his sceptre and the castle cheered.
The recognition of Edward as King is also watched by King of Dostov, Terris Quinn, King of Zettel, and King of Cori, but Adrian has sent a letter saying he sent me as his representatives, while Renasia had to decline because of their on-going campaign.
Even though I do realize that Harald expression is not at all happy. How could he be happy when his plan is destroyed?
The nobles that once so resisting of Edward rule now accept him because of the pressure of the Church and the rebellion of the common folk has become a headache for them.
With the return of the king, they are convinced that peace will dawn again in the Kingdom and they are willing to move past old resentment.
So does Edward.
But I doubt he would or could forgive the Orleans. Then the feast began.
Roasted and boiled meats, rich stews, platters of buttered root vegetables, sharp welcome greens and sweet fruits and nuts means a rich feast and full bellies.
Large amounts of mead and ale were brought up from the cellars for the feast.
The house of Orleans has set out long trestle tables with benches to accommodate the lords and pork, oxen, horsemeat, poultry, beef and huge variety of fish were served along with vegetables.
Poets, minstrel, bards would recite sagas of Levitia and poems of Leliana and the long history of Vangua formation.
The bards would get the lord dancing and some of the lords took to the tables and dance while the other lords encouraged him.
Every single one of the lords wears their finest clothes and jewellery.
Edward himself looks kingly today. Wearing his crown, he looks more charismatic and his clothes also help him to look more formidable.
Noble and robust is the word I describe Edward appearance right now.
He wears a blue tunic with attached chainmail sleeves and gauntlets, as well a detailed emblem that depicts his crest symbol a rampant lion on a gold and black shield with golden wings.
His red lion hide cape with the medallion on his neck, hanging for all the nobles to see just enhances his appearance of nobility. It makes a noble impression.
Usually this kind of feast went on for days but I don’t think I will have time to join them. Tomorrow I have to go to my objective.
I on the other hand is more preoccupied for tomorrow plan when I depart. It has been a few weeks since I began my journey to Vangua and tomorrow I will depart.
To meet him. To seek him. And this is when it happens.
The moon light that illuminates the hall suddenly dimmed. We all look outside and see the moon covered by the sun as many believe.
Scholars from Asteros called this occurrence lunar eclipse. It is said that when moon orbits our world which proved the heliocentric ideas of Emperor George the Wise, it falls into the world shadow which will turn the moon dark.
Then the lord’s gasped and I had a foreboding what will happen.
There is unease in the hall. After the coronation something like this happen. Sign and omens. And common folks, noble lords, priest and bishops believe omens and signs.
After all there are some magic older than time itself. They all look at the moon, awe and transfixed as slowly the moon show itself again.
And now the Hall whispered, while the noble lords began trying to find meaning on such occurrence just after the coronation of Edward. I need to dispel the worries.
‘HAHAHAHA’ I laughed.
The tension suddenly tense up Harald who is near me said
‘Why the laugh Lord Arial?’ he said.
‘God has given us a sign’ I said.
‘A sign?’ Lord Prodence asked
‘Yes, a sign.’
‘Are you a moonsayer?’ Lord Ahelia asked
‘I could see some’ I said
‘What sign?’ Lord Prodence
‘A new beginning’ I said.
‘Light after dark. Peace after chaos.’ And with that the lord nodded. They are not hard to convince. After all people believe what they want to believe.
‘He is right. The fact it happens after King Edward coronation only strengthen the fact.’ Some said enthusiastically
I nodded. Lord Ahelia also shares the same sentiments
‘You are quite a knowledgeable man, Lord Ahelia.’ He seems to be pleased with the compliments. Seeing this, the other lord agrees.
‘Yes, Lord Arial is right’ the other lord chimed in. Then once again with a laugh, the feast continues while Edward looked at me with appreciation.
I just nodded.
After a while the Agreement signing had begun. An alliance between Aetherland and Vangua and recognizing the rights of Edwards as King.
With that the peace can be uphold.
Then suddenly in the long table while the lords and nobles singing bawdy songs and drinking ale and wine a yelled can be heard.
‘Lord Arial!’ The yell called me.
I look at the person who yelled for my name. Edward seems to be in a happy mood. I got up from my seat when the song and the chatter stopped.
Everyone knows who I am. My exploits has already spread to all the continents. The Dragon, they called me.
‘Yes, Your Highness.’ I said formal in front of his lords.
I could hardly call him Edward in front of his vassal, else it may show disrespect, no matter how close I am with the King.
Then he called Harald and this only make more whispered. I just wait in front of Edward with a tight face. What is he doing?
‘Kneel’ he said
So I begin to kneel.
‘Not you, friend.’ I am puzzled.
‘You!’ he pointed his finger to Harald. Everybody seems shocked. Harald especially. Harald with no other choice kneel.
‘Swear your fealty to the Lord of the great Duchy of Arrandy, Lord Arial Vermont and I will forgive your transgression right here right now.’ The lord’s all gasped in disbelief.
‘This could not be done, Your Highness. Lord Arial is of foreign state’ some of the lords began to advise the King.
I look at Edward and said
‘Please reconsider, Your Highness’ I said. The King then said, his eyes looked maliciously at Harald, an eye full of hatred ad bitterness
‘I have made my decision. Your family bear treasonous thoughts for the crown. If not for my forbearance I would have you executed the moment the Bishop put the throne on my head. In front of all these lord swear your fealty to him’ he said then he look at Arial with a gentle look and smiles.
‘My protector and friend. He has sheltered me when I’m in danger, fed me when I’m hungry and protect me when my own people tried to harm me. It is only right that I repay him. I could not give him land here, nor could I give him a title, but I could give him a vassal.”
I was flustered, standing there not knowing what to do.
And the look of the other nobles is piercing. I am not a coward but I know of their envy to Arrandy and now for one of their lords to bent their knee and kneel on a foreign lord.
It is not unusual; but it is usually done if that lord has gained many approvals from the other lords.
And this might also create problem between me and Adrian. Even though the King owed his crown to my father, and did not have any ground of offence against me personally, I know there is some machination from the King’s Court to try to meddle in the state of affairs of Arrandy.
He may be afraid that I would secede from the Kingdom, creating a Principality.
It is not ridiculous to think that Adrian is insecure of Arrandy power as a self-governing state, even though that power had for much more than half of that time, acted more than a friendly part towards Aetherland and his rule.
It was not unnatural that the Vangua people should cherish a strong national dislike to the Caelum lord like me.
After all, combined with their envy and racial distinction between Caelum and other race is also a part of their reason for disliking me to be given such honours.
Harald on the other hand suffer no such slight.
That is because he is not pure blooded Caelum, like me. My father and mother might be farmers before they become lords but they are pure blooded Caelum.
But such motives were not openly avowed then any more than now. The rivalry between the Vermont family and Alan is famous.
My involvement in killing Alderam is known to all. My father involvement in making Adrian King is famously told in songs and poems all around the Continent.
And here Edward asks the son of that man to kneel under the feet of his father killer, the family who exile him from Aetherland, never to smell Aetherland air again, watched by Alderam allies.
Not to mention they viewed Arrandy as a menace fearing that I would set my sight for the land south of Aeteherland.
Everyone knows that House of Vermont and House of Althea will be bonded in marriage.
Since Althea rule around the South then it is only right that they fear Arrandy strength when united with Althea.
With gritted teeth, Harald kneel to my amazement and the other lords.
Everyone watch him as he uttered his words. I know he speak of the word for fearing his own life.
‘I swear to Lord Arial Vermont my fealty. I am his shield and his sword. I will shield him from harm, and avenge him if he were to die. I will not harm him or his family.’
And with that Edward laughed
‘That is good.’
He is drunk I mused but what done is done.
‘I accept your fealty. Rise’ I said.
Standing there I don’t know what to do, so I began thinking that I need to get out of this Grand Hall as fast as possible.
‘I will excuse myself Your Highness’ I said while I walk to the door Kyle and West following me from behind.
‘This is dangerous. I have no doubt Harald will not let this slide.’ I whispered to Kyle and West. West understands the graveness of the situation and he nodded.
‘What we are going to do now?’ Kyle said from behind.
‘We will leave tonight” I declared