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Chapter Twelve: The King In Truth
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:33 pm    Post subject: Chapter Twelve: The King In Truth  

And for everyone's enjoyment, a new chapter. Enjoy!


Chapter Twelve: The King In Truth

They had gathered in Tessa's chambers to make it easier on their half-sister who was sitting up in her bed, her mannish maidservant standing over her like some grim protector, ready to usher them out at the first signs of her mistress tiring. Personally Lukan was more than willing to listen to the iron-faced woman, he'd grown up with women ordering him around after all, and he knew that look. The look that would brook absolutely no arguments from either patient or visitors.

Alasdair was there, standing behind the chair in which Kyrie sat, his hands on her shoulders. Every once and a while they'd share a glance and Lukan was convinced some sort of communication had passed between them. But there were no audible signs of anything having been said. Some draconic form of communication then. Either way, it was probably something personal and therefore none of his business. Lukan was beginning to realize that sometimes, poking his nose into things was likely to get it ripped off.

And then there was Khafi, his burly dark-skinned bodyguard hovering over his shoulder like a silent shadow. The man of the deep desert seemed honestly ill at ease, it was his first time attending a meeting. Even when the four of them had met in Khafi's quarters...his servants had made themselves swiftly scarce during the conversation. Now he seemed to peer at each of them intently, his eyes flicking back and forth, although after the first glance they avoided ever falling again on Alasdair and his wife. One glimpse of a dragon was enough in Lukan's book.

Lukan was the only one alone. Of the people that had come with him, he trusted none of them enough for these councils. He had tutors and servants and a valet...but the tutors saw him as a child in need of learning, his valet saw him as a foolish young man forever spotted with dirt and unfit for court, and to his servants he was the young master they needed to keep an eye on and report his doings back to his Lady mother. His only friend was Beak and that was as it had been since he'd been a very young man seeking to find a place in his mother's holdings.

The silence was tense for quiet a while, worse than any of their previous gatherings had been. Each of them had things on their mind, Lukan could understand this. But the time to keep personal councils was long over. "Are we all done keeping secrets from each other? Or are we still worried about being stabbed in the back. I figure if any of you had wanted me dead, you'd have made your move by now. Of us all I freely admit I'm the least worldly and the least skilled in politicking. I grew up in the high mountains where the number of sheep that returned from the pastures were of more importance than any missive from the High King. Do I want the throne of this land? I don't know. But I'm tired of arguing over it. There's not going to be a land to sit in a throne over soon enough. The whole world is going to hell. So I'm done keeping secrets and I hope the rest of you are as well."

And for another long moment there was more silence, astonished rather than tense this time, before Alasdair broke it with laughter.

"I shouldn't be shocked by your words. You had the courage to hold a sword on me even after you knew that I wasn't going to hurt you. For that, little brother, you've earned a great deal of respect. However, I'm keeping no more secrets. I am a dragon, born of a human woman and a human man and imbued to my nature by an ancient spirit and ancient blood, long buried and centuries old. I am very young, old enough to have strong scales, good wings, and children of my own, but my powers are not much greater than that of a strong mortal. What I have shown you is very nearly all I can do. I will not be impressive until I have seen more than a century of life and I very much doubt that our enemies will give me that much time."

"So what you're saying is that you're not the end all solution to our problems brother mine? That you cannot just take to the skies on those great black wings of yours and scourge the dead from the face of the earth. That you cannot kill the blight that feasts on souls and controls their bodies at the roots of it? You're telling us that you're not a sword...but merely a dagger?" Khafi's eyebrows were up into his hair, a half smile that was neither mirthful nor mocking twisting his lips. "I find that to be good news surprisingly. It means that human ingenuity still has a place in this war and that, along with a few unsavory and fortuitously place contacts are what I can bring to this council. I'm not a Beguiler, I've never shown a scrap of magic or talent beyond what any human might possess given the right training, but that means that I understand far better than anyone with power the strength of the common man. And I can plan on that strength."

Tessa gave a dry chuckle, shaking her head gingerly. "I've no idea what's wrong with me. Ever since I tried to spy the gate things havn't been quite right in my head. I know things. I see things. I don't know if I see what is happening, what has happened, or what might be happening. If you can get that crusty old man back in here, I need to talk to him again. I need someone to tell me what's going on and how to use this power of mine. Because otherwise I'm of very little use. Unreliable in any capacity. If you're depending on my power and I cannot control it, it fails us. If you're depending on my wits and I suddenly collapse, then again I have failed us. Until I have this ability well in hand...I can offer insight and very little more without risking being the weak link in the chain. It pains me to say it, but I will do my best to plan around it."

He nodded, staring at each of them in turn before finally finding a chair and seating himself in it. "Fair enough from each of you. I suppose that now that we've agreed to trust each other, after a fashion, we should get down to business. What I saw on my flight was sobering. The group that attacked today was tiny, but a sliver coming before the greater army. And the army is vast...huge. I could see them without landing, the way that they darkened the river and churned the surface. Far as I could see, there were always more coming." He shook his head, shivering a little. "It's an army as large as any that I've learned about in the history texts. There are not enough men here at the castle to stop it."

Khafi, who had taken a seat, now leaned forward almost expectantly. "What about the southern armies? Would Astor have to leave the defenses on the southern boarder to repel them? Because I know for a fact my Uncle would take that opportunity to march in with full force and take everything he could until something stopped him."

Alasdair sighed. "There's always the North. The Northern Lords are already fighting the dead. Give me a week and we could have some of the southern lords here to lend a hand. But armies do not muster in that short a time and I doubt that Astor would allow an army from Rhimefaust into his lands anyway."

"I suppose you're both right, but an army is exactly what Astor needs and doesn't have. His nation is exhausted and it shouldn't be. Leyond's fields are rich and teeming with life, but the food has been vanishing. It's not long before famine sweeps this land gentlemen. The armies in the south are all right for now, sustaining themselves, but there's not going to be a north soon enough. The garrisons will be the last to grow ill, but they arn't going to have a surrounding people to smith them their weapons and armor or grow them the crops to eat. No...Leyond is heading for dark days brothers."

Lukan glanced at Tessa sharply, eyes narrowing. Was she making a prediction? Had she seen something? "Be that as it may, shouldn't we be thinking of a solution and not just listing the problems? First would be dealing with the dead. Then we can figure out how to feed the people or where the food is disappearing to."

"Or perhaps you can stop having secret councils and bring a logical explanation before me?"

Lukan stood swiftly enough to knock the chair over as Astor stepped out from behind a section of sliding wall, his hard eyes sweeping over the assembled group.

"Don't look so surprised. There are doors to each of your chambers that none of you have discovered, not even you Khafi, though it was amusing to watch you try. I've seen your meetings, I've watched you as you've done your research and wondered aloud if my mind was slipping or if there was something you were missing. There is something you were missing, quite a lot of something, which disappoints me and also leaves me proud knowing that I have upheld the same tradition as my ancestors. There are secrets that only we who rule Leyond may know. And they are the reason that I am not worried that the dead march."

He was here, alone, with no guards. He'd been listening, spying? The whole time? They'd all been outsmarted by the man they assumed had been too old, self-centered, and short-sighted to see reason. He'd just been...evaluating them? "So...I suppose we should apologize?"

"There is no need to apologize Lukan. You were all supposed to assume I was an aging fool. That my mind was going and that I was going to let my country fall to ruin. I wanted to see how you all would handle being on your own. And you have done rather well. I expected you all to be at each other's throats to rule...but you have instead banded together to solve problems far beyond your resources. Now, my question to each of you is this. Are the dead, or the possessed southerners a bigger problem?"
---------------------------------------

So, Astor has managed to fool all of them, even Khafi. The old king is clearly hiding secrets, after all, that's the point of them. And now he asks their honest opinion on which is the bigger threat, the dead, or the Ridden? Only you know.
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I hope you enjoyed.
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:48 pm    Post subject:  

Shiny new forum, already dusty. *chuckles and wanders off*
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Lilith



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:10 pm    Post subject:  

*putters in with a feather duster and starts cleaning and dusting rapidly*

Well, I honestly didn't get the impression that Astor was a fool. I just got the impression he was stubborn. And old.

And I think the Dead and the Ridden are BOTH problematic, each as much as the other.. so how to deal?

Divide, and conquer. Khafi, Tessa, and the 'crusty, old man' should work with un-possessing the Ridden, while Alasdair, Lukan, and ASTOR HIMSELF (Yes this lazy old stubborn man needs to get up off his butt and do something!) should pull recon and try to establish defenses before the Dead arrive.

Hope this little scrub-down helps. And stop leaving your scales on the floor when you shed, missy. *carries out a sizeable pile of red scales*
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:13 pm    Post subject:  

*stares at red scales* Those aren't mine...*scaly brow-ridge raise* Someone's been in here...
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Shillelagh



Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 8:27 pm    Post subject:  

Astor went from smug and stubborn to... well, smug and manipulative. Or maybe just smug. Although I don't know why he expected people to fight for the crown when he's keeping all of its best features secret.

How does he know whether or not anyone found the secret passages? "Even you Khafi" suggests that he is even able to watch all of them- not just eavesdrop from the other side of a secret door.

I say they defeat the threat to the north first, for reasons completely unrelated to how awesome the northern lands are. Alasdair is thus the most important, of course, but Khafi should lend his stealth where he can. Lukan may want to scout on Beak, or he may need to stay behind. Tessa should definitely meet up with that mage again. The sooner her powers are under control, the better.
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:22 am    Post subject:  

Alright you guys, do your voting magic.
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