As more time passed, things only looked grimmer. There were those waiting for a miraculous cure for the king’s ailment, those who were certain an act of god would be his salvation, and still those who were just waiting in suspense for his inevitable death. Rumors were now spreading beyond the castle walls that their ruler was bedridden without much hope of returning to health, lest a miracle came to be. It led to unrest. Transfers of power always did, though Wistina had been prosperous for a long time and not many citizens could fathom the true hardships that might befall them with a malicious monarch at the helm. They were complacent, but aware that a child could do little to better them on the throne.
While the publics opinion was important to Florence, she knew they could be easily sated by showing them that life would continue as it always had once Germaine passed. So long as they could keep the situation stable for the merchant folk, the hearsay would pass and they would not face imminent danger of rebellion from that front. She was confident she could manage that much, and so she paid little attention to what was happening outside for the time being.
It seemed as though most of the nobility that was interested in visiting the sickly king had done so, because the near constant shuffling in and out of his chambers came to a slow. Soon it was only those who made a home in the castle, or very nearby, and those who had ulterior motives. Unfortunately, the two categories overlapped greatly. There was no telling for sure who fit into one category, the other, or both. She found it frustrating, but coupling this information with the small tips and clues she picked up on throughout her busy days, the woman was compiling a trio of lists. The first of names of people who she could trust be loyal to either her, or her son, the second of those she could not, and the final was a place for the ones who would likely remain neutral and wait for the smoke to clear before picking a side. She almost found that more distasteful than siding against her. It was a coward’s play.
Now that there were fewer visitors, it fell back to Florence to fill the place of company holder for her husband. She still made excuses to excuse herself as often as possible, but more and more of her time was filled with uselessly sitting at the King’s side. As much as she didn’t care for the man, it was still unpleasant to see another human being painfully cling to life with little chance at recovery. What was worse was that he knew it was the end as well. Whatever hope and energy had been there in the beginning had been snuffed. The Queen didn’t think there was much time left, she was not wrong.
The very next day, as she was sitting at his side, the emerald-eyed woman noticed his breathing slow. Just as she was about to call for someone to go and find his attending doctor, Germaine raised a hand to stop her.
[+orangered “Go-“] The man burst into a coughing fit as he tried to speak for the first time that day. It was a long moment before he was able to suppress it. [+orangered “Go fetch Augustine, my dear. I wish to speak with him.”] Germaine’s eyes lacked their normal luster as he stared up at her.
This [I son of a bitch!] After all she’d done to shield their son from this nonsense, he wanted to bring him in for what would surely be the most traumatic part of it. At this rate she was going to murder the old man herself. For a couple of seconds she toyed with the idea, but instead smiled down at the dying man. [+mediumseagreen “Very well, I will go and find him.”] Standing she exited the room promptly, however as soon as she was out the door she slowed and took her time.
This early time of day, she knew exactly where the boy would be, so wandering around aimlessly in search of him was not an option. She would take the most direct path, but at a crawl of a pace. However, even with this tactic she made it much sooner than she would have liked to the study in which Augustine was receiving his math lesson.
Without having to announce herself, the boy’s tutor cut short of what he was saying and turned to his Queen. [+navy “You’re majesty, to what do we owe this honor?”]
She wasted no time getting to the point, though her words were somewhat brisk. [+mediumseagreen “My husband wishes to see our son, we will be relieving him of his classes today.]
Able to pick up the nuance of her words, the man bowed his head, nodding that he understood, but did not speak again.
Florence called for the boy directly and he shot up from his chair at. [+coral “Yes, mother.”] He’d taken notice of her foul mood and made haste to join her at the door, but was surprised when she led with a slow pace as soon as they were out in the hall. Something was wrong and he had a terrible feeling about what it might be.
Once again, she made it to her destination faster than she would have liked. Turning to look at Augustine, there was a glimpse of sympathy in her eyes, but she said nothing more before opening the door. Still lying in bed, dull eyed, the King was revealed. With a hand on his back, Florence urged the Prince towards his father. She let him take the chair that she had previously claimed, opting to stand instead.
Germaine didn’t take long to start up. [+orangered “There you are, my boy.”] He did his best to smile, though it was dampened like the rest of his gestures. [+orangered “It looks like I haven’t much time left,”] a fact that was emphasized with bursts of sputtering. [+orangered “But before I go, I wanted to tell you… to be strong. You are going to be king; that means your word will be law. Do not fall prey to the two-faced snakes of the world. Surround yourself with only those who are trustworthy, as I did.”] He grew quieter, but continued his spiel with a peaceful smile. [+orangered “It falls to you now, Augustine, all of Wistina depends on you. Take care of them… ”]
Seeing red, Florence was absolutely seething. What was this hypocrite saying? This was too much pressure for a little boy. Glaring down at him, she watched his stupid serene face. He was smiling as though he’d said something profound. Balling her fists, her nails dug into her palms. It was hard not to slap the ill-fated man, and chastise him about the effects this would forever have on their child. But making a scene at the side of a dying man’s bed would do her no good. She bit her cheek in order to keep silent. The taste of iron filled her mouth.
It wasn’t long until he seemed to lose consciousness, his chest raising and falling more unsteadily. With it came a sort of snorting sound, his death rattle, like the sound of a pig. It came less and less frequently until it faded from existence, along with Germaine. She looked at the dead man with a look of hatred. This was the opportune time to cry, but she had no tears for him, at least no genuine tears. What flowed from her eyes was nothing more than a façade to keep up appearances. However, her ear caught the sound of the child next to her chocking back sobs. Finally tearing her eyes from the King, the new widow’s gaze fell to Augustine. The despairing expression he wore wretched at her heartstrings. That was something to shed tears for, a broken boy in way over his head. Kneeling down, she pulled him into her arms.
[+mediumseagreen “Shh, Shh,”] she cooed at him, a true sadness mingling with the one she’d manufactured. [+mediumseagreen “He would not want you to be sad, my love.] A lie as Germaine always called for those around him to fawn over him in a ridiculous manner, but he was dead now and she could say whatever suited her and her situation.
His bouts of trembling in her arms were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Florence hated to see Augustine so distraught. The sight was enough to completely push the thought of the king from her mind and she instead cried discreetly for her son.
When word spread, there was somewhat of a procession that came through the quarters. But the Queen excused herself from the hubbub, taking the Prince with her. She retired to her room, changing the two of them into black, a formality of mourning.
If her estimation was correct, she would have a week or two before the council would formally discuss what was to be done. This would be the place for lawful gambits to be made. There was no telling when anyone with less honorable plans might strike. So until that meeting had came and passed, she was determined not to let Augustine out of her sight.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The nobleman left the boy to his thoughts beside the cool fountain, turning away toward the King’s Barracks not far from the gardens. He paused however to look back at the young man who slowly walks off toward the castle. The King’s inevitable death would ravage the poor boy and hurt him immensely. Perhaps he would come out of it stronger and heed Nicolai’s words. Or perhaps he would follow Nicolai’s past and sink into an almost inescapable pulpit. It was saddening to see such a sight but he was not responsible here; it was between the son and parents. He had meddled enough by instructing the boy to behave for his mother and offer her only his support. A momentary pang of guilt that he had interfered was pushed back. His heart was in the right place.
Heading through the doorway it was a short trip down the corridor and through a large set of double doors. Inside were several benches running down the middle, multiple sets of armour on stands lining the wall, in the middle of both of these a row of weapons varying from short swords to halberd and all that was in between. Off to one corner was a doorway, covered over by thick fabric, white runic symbols painted around the frame. The Royal Armoury was quite beautiful to anyone who appreciated the art of war. A small high window let in an almost godly light that struck several pieces of shining breast plate and it brought a smile to Nicolai’s face as his hand brushed across the warm metal.
From one of the benches he picked up a carefully folded set of clothing left for him by his page, Timothy, clutched to his chest whilst moving across to the curtained doorway, tapping with a free hand on the wooden frame. Inside was an older man, wearing rather priestly looking robes in the Wistinian colours, a deep red trimmed by shining gold.
The old man of little hair but a glorious silver beard turned with interest to the noise at his doorway, bushy brow rising upon seeing the Elven male bowing his head, half entering before a wave of the palm invites him further in.
[+green “Duke Windsor, how may I help you?”] He spoke so graceful and softly that Nicolai immediately felt at ease in the man’s presence.
[+teal “Master Nestrom,”] he head dips in respect,[+teal “nothing drastic, just another light wound to tend to. Gerald takes his training very seriously.”] His now free hand gestures to the cut at his cheek as he moves into the room, seating himself in a chair that groans with his weight – though over the years it has become quite accustom to him.
The older man chuckles lightly, nodding as he steps over to a table covered by alchemical ingredients; pipes and flasks of glass, bowls of different coloured powders, vials of liquid of varying viscosity. A familiar blue powder is selected and brought across to the younger man.
[+green “Yes, I have spoken with him only a few minutes prior. You take your training seriously too young Elf.”] His wry smile draws a similar response from Nicolai who only nods a little sheepishly. Being so much older the healer was given a deep amount of respect.
[+teal “I’m quite sure he can weather the hits more than I.”] He retorts softly, given that Gerald was quite a bit larger and more physical dominating than he was, as evidenced by their fight. If it had been a fight to the death it may have been a different affair – Nicolai was rather swift and nimble with his Elven heritage and armed with his Elven glaive he was quite formidable. Thankfully, as things stood, they would never have to know just how the fight would unfold.
The older man offers him a compliant nod of his head in agreement. A man of few but wise words he was quite difficult to draw into a fully-fledged conversation. His worn hand takes a canteen of water and adds a splash to a small mixing bowl. The blue powder is added in slowly, mixed until it becomes a chalky paste and malleable in his fingers like putty. He approaches with dyed fingers to the Elf who offers up his cheek, a damp cloth ran across the cut skin to clear it of dried blood. Satisfied, the paste is smeared over the wound and massages slowly into the lightly tanned skin. It stings for a moment but is cool to the touch and Nicolai is accustomed to its numbing nature.
It was a relatively short visit to see the healer. Not much needed saying. He took Master Nestrom’s assistance in removing his chain and the remainder of his leather armour, careful to keep from removing the healing balm as the heavy linked metal was pulled up and over his head. With a final bow of thanks to the wise man he left to head for an empty room and change his sweat soaked clothing.
As he left the way he had come he was surprised to find Malcolm walking in, heading toward him with an ever growing smug smile on his face. A conniving man who only reached a lofted status due to being a crony of another despised man, Vincent, it was safe to say Nicolai had a mistrust of anything the man did or said.
[+maroon “Ah, Nicolai, how lovely to see you.”] His hands outstretched as if to approach for a more formal embrace, but seeing the Elf’s hand full and unmoving he quickly pulled them back in, clasping at his slight rotund stomach.
[+teal “[i Duke] Nicolai, don’t forget your place boy.”] There was a distaste on the man’s tongue as he near hissed his displeasure.[+teal “What are you doing here Lord Malcolm? I do not see a free luncheon or young woman to force yourself upon.”] The barb was dripping in spite and his head tilted a touch to the side as they met near to the middle of the room. Malcolm was at a significant height disadvantage.
[+maroon “Oh you stab at my heart [i Duke Nicolai].”] He jabbed back.[+maroon “I am here on behalf of the Marquis. He wishes for the medicine man’s word on an ailment he has had of late.”]
[+teal “Is it poison? Or perhaps a wild animal fever?”] He asked as if in genuine interest. Malcolm, wary of the Duke’s reaction and specific questioning, narrowed his eyes and shook his head.
[+maroon “No. It is not. Why do you ask?”]
[+teal “Lay with enough serpents and canines and you’re bound to get bit.”] The Elf shrugged his shoulders with indifference as he stepped forward and the bumbling Lord quickly moved to one side.[+teal “Do tell me when the funeral is – I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”] His final jab came as he stepped through the double doorway, hearty laugh echoing into the halls.
Malcolm was left in frustration, scuffing his boot on the floor as no witty reply came to mind and he was left flush faced and angered at being bested by the Elf. Nicolai had a way with words and took some delight in dancing about the short fat man with prose. With nothing to say back and having missed any chance of calling back, he turned to the doorway of Master Nestrom, fishing at a small piece of parchment of ingredients requested by Vincent.
Nicolai changed in an empty guards room a floor up, at level with the gardens. His more noble clothing was light in colour and weight given the warm weather of late. Cut from quite fine cloth and rather expensive they were still quite plain in design. His boots were given a quick polish and his hair brushed back as was his norm. The dirty clothing was dropped off with a passing servant girl, instructed where to take them and she curtsied as she left.
Walking across the hallway to a deserted dining hall he made his way to the window. The stained glass window was left a touch a jar allowing a cool breeze to blow in with a bouquet of wild smells that brought a memory of travel from his childhood back to him. His mother and father were there. The carriage seat was wonderfully soft and the farms they passed in high Autumn were ripe for harvest. Golden wheat swayed in a soft breeze and the Havvod Mountains loomed in the background, seemingly much larger as a child.
The view of the garden was just as breathless. The Queen years prior had taken careful consideration for specific plant’s to be grown and their colours to match to a theme. The large trees that grew were of this land and he appreciated the touch she had given to it. Before the redesign it had been mostly cold stone or planters with tree saplings constantly replaced as the plant life died so swiftly.
As he took in the sight he saw young Augustine walking along with his mother Florence, looking as beautiful as ever. For a woman pulled this way and that between her ill husband, a rambunctious child, and a Kingdom left to her to run alone, she never looked like it was overcoming her and her appearance was always immaculate to match.
He had attempted, early on at least, to offer his help when requested. To give her his experienced ear and thoughts on any matter she may not be coping with. As yet, he had not been summoned. He had been left to his command of the King’s Army and given no insight into what was going on. It puzzled him a little. Nicolai felt he was being pushed out. Perhaps she was truly taking it all in her stride and she had her own aides and advisors to rely upon. But the fear of losing his friend in the King and thus his role in the kingdom was part of the reason he had sought to form some kind of friendship with the young Prince, to keep himself in the inner circle if possible.
The moment Vincent appeared, calling out for the Queen to join him as he had some unheard topic or issue to discuss, contempt crept in. Perhaps he was her personal advisor on how to run the Kingdom. It would make sense as to why she had ignored his help. A serpents whisper in your ear would guide you down specific paths. Nicolai watched the young Queen leave with the Marquis and that simmering hatred boiled over to where nonsensical thoughts of violence came flowing forward from the deep recesses of his mind. He was suffocating in this treachery. He needed out of the castle. He needed to be free of the confines of this place that played into slick hands so easily.
The Duke set off to seek out Gerald. It was time to call forth the Royal Guard and leave the dirty underhanded moves to those it suited most. A few days of riding would hopefully simmer growing resentment.
The Prince split off from the elf as he went to have his wound tended to. He hoped that the man would be all right. That sort of thing worried him. The boy wasn’t fond of acts of violence, though he was fascinated by the art of swordplay and eager to learn more. As Nicolai had said, that would come with time. However, that wasn’t the only thing the noble had said that Augustine was mulling over.
He’d advised him to be kind and listen to his mother. A strange request as it did not deviate from his regular actions. To be quite honest, his mother frightened him. She was strict and constantly critical. He was convinced she did not much care for anyone, well except for Gregory, an elderly Dwarven bard who worked in the castle as a musician. He was the only person that the Queen insisted be kept on staff. He’d play little tunes on his lute and wander about the palace at his own leisure. The strange little man had far more freedom than anyone else in this place. The prince was jealous; he didn’t have to worry about anything, especially reprisals from his mother. But he couldn’t be too mad, the bard was quite fun to be around. Gregory always had a fun story to tell, and a poorly played song to pluck. Not to mention he would sneak Augustine treats from time to time. Strangely enough, the boy looked up to him almost as a grandfather, since he had none of his own.
Taking Nicolai’s message to heart, the crown Prince decided to find and visit his mother. Unsure where to find her, as her schedule had become sporadic as of late, Augustine asked around until he uncovered her location. She was visiting his father, but he wasn’t allowed in his quarters so he hovered outside for her to come out. After a while, Meredith meandered down the hall.
[+violet “Your highness,”] her head bowed lightly acknowledging his presence. [+violet “What do you need?”] Without the Queen around the lady took a more curt tone than usual with the boy.
Looking up at the chubby young human woman, Augustine missed his mother’s last attendant. Meredith didn’t seem to like children, even though she was barely an adult herself. [+coral “I was looking for my mother."]
The brown-eyed girl nodded, and then entered the room without telling him whether she would send her out or not. He frowned in response. How could she be so rude? Trying to push the discourteous behavior to the side, he stared at the door, half hoping it would be a while longer so he could give up and go do something else. Unfortunately that would not be the case. The thick mahogany door slowly opened shortly after. His mother’s bright green eyes looked down intensely into his own.
[+mediumseagreen “Augustine, I believe I said you were not to bother your father for the time being.”] The woman was surprised when Meredith told her that the prince was waiting outside. Normally he wasn’t persistent once given instruction.
Flinching at her chiding tone, he was quick to respond. [+coral “Yes, mother.”] Debating whether it was better to leave now or risk speaking out of turn. She started to dismiss him, but he piped up before she could finish. [+coral “Actually, I came to see you.”]
Taken aback at being interrupted and then at the boy’s unusual request, Florence was silent. It took but a moment for her to recover. [+mediumseagreen “Have you finished your lessons?”]
[+coral “Yes, mother.”]
Satisfied with his answer, she smiled. [+mediumseagreen “Very well, I will be out in a moment.”] The Queen then turned back into room and closed the door behind her. Walking a few steps into the fanciful decorated bedchamber, she announced her departure, but asked Meredith to stay until someone else came to look after her husband. With that done, she returned to her son.
[+mediumseagreen “Now, what did you have in mind?”] Surely there was something that prompted this behavior. And she rarely saw him take the reigns with anything, so Florence wasn’t about to dampen his spirits now.
Augustine hadn’t thought that far ahead, so he blurted out the first thing that came to mind that he thought she might like. [+coral “I’d like to walk through the gardens… if that is alright.”] His voice trailed off at the end, ever nervous around the serious woman.
She nodded, still pleased as punch that he was making an attempt to come out of his shell. Little did she know, it was one he only wore around her.
Walking together they made it outside and to the courtyard. Off at the far end of the well-maintained cobble plaza there was a grand arch, heavy with blooming buds. The colors were coordinated to match the countries flag, gold and maroon. This was the entrance to the estate’s gardens. They were a spectacle to behold and a place that Florence used to retreat to often when she was pregnant. Though she hadn’t had the time as of late.
The woman tread slowly, noting that her son’s stride was only half of her own. Plus there was plenty to see, if she went too quickly she’d miss something. It was better this way. The Queen looked forward to taking in all in quietly and contently, but it wasn’t to be.
[+coral “Mother, what sort of plants were there in your home country?”] Augustine asked in genuine curiosity. She seldom spoke of Astoria, he knew little of his heritage on her side. It was almost as though he was Wistin through and though.
Taking a moment to think back, it had been nearly ten years since she left her home and she hadn’t returned since. [+mediumseagreen “It’s warmer there, so the plants are a little more tropical. Not so many trees as there are here in Wistina. Although, it has been so long that that may not be the case any longer.”] She was confident much had changed there since she came to this place.
It wasn’t the detail he was hoping to get, but she almost looked happy talking about the place she was from. He’d always found it odd, that with all the languages she forced him to learn, Astorian was not among them. Perhaps she didn’t think it was practical since it was so far away, it being the north most nation on the continent, well just off the the continent really. It was an island nation.While here in Wistina they were the farthest south.
The rest of their stroll went about the same as the beginning. Few words were spoken between them, but it was not as horrid as Augustine had been expecting. In fact his mother was almost friendly for the duration of their time together. The only time he was truly panicked was when they came across Gregory asleep on one of the intricate stone benches among the roses. Augustine expected her to be livid, but instead she merely sighed, shaking her head at the old dwarf before shuffling him along as to not expose him to the man’s baboonery any longer than necessary.
In the end it was Vincent, a Marquis, that pulled her back to her reality. He was the same ebony-eyed man that had latched onto her the other day. Every chance he had, he’d been buzzing around her like a fly. She didn’t trust him, but she would tolerate him for now.
Bidding farewell to her son, the dark haired woman bent down, sweeping his sandy blond bangs to the side and placed a soft kiss on his forehead amongst the hanging wisteria. One of the few signs of affection he ever bestowed on the child. [+mediumseagreen “Thank you for the invitation, my love, but I have to return now.] Standing straight again, she stood tall for a woman, posture perfect as she made her way to the exit of the gardens to see to some mundane task that was calling to her.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat As metals collide their sharp rasps ring out into the open auditorium-like space, each slash and thrust echoing alongside every gasp and yell. Two men separate from one another, taking several paces back and regaining their composure. One is dressed in a thick, heavy set of plate armour, helmet and all. He wields in gauntleted hand a broadsword, a splintered shield on the floor and over to one side. The other man, an Elf given his tapered ears, is much lighter dressed. Padded in leather mostly save for the chain shirt wrought of Dwarven silver to the power and strength of triple steel, it was close-woven of many rings, as supple almost as linen and cold as ice, not to mention rather beautiful. His sword is thinner and partially curved.
Their combat continues with many a precession of thrusts, parries, wild swings and weak slashes. They duck or turn aside the others attacks whilst retorting with their own. The Elf is lighter and thus quicker, darting around his larger and more cumbersome foe and landing several blows that scuff and dent the plate. One double handed punch of his sword punctures the armour and pierces the defences of the larger man who grunts with the impact, a slow trickle of blood running from the hole left behind.
The plate man doesn't seem perturbed by the attack however and launches a flurry of heavy strikes that forces the Elf back, the dirt skittering under foot. Panting hard now the Elf regains a better stance to go forward on. The fight had gone on for ten minutes, the pace barely dropping though the man of plate seemed invigorated from the wound and a few feinted swings ends with a particularly heavy downward strike, blocked well but the sword blow sends reverberations down his arm, Elven hands spasms and his blade falls loose. Seizing on this a plated fist swings forward and strikes into his cheek, spinning him back and down onto one knee, the heavy sword coming down to rest on his shoulder.
[+coral “Stop! Don't kill him!”] A youthful voice cries out, echoing into the relative silence left behind from the end of their fight. From a darkened archway leading to the castle itself comes running a small boy. The plated man immediately takes a large step back removing his sword from the Elf's shoulder and planting it into the ground. As quickly but fluidly as he can, he takes a knee and bows his head. The boy approaches the Elf, placing a hand on his shoulder whilst giving a rather dirty glare to the other fighter. The touch surprises the dazed Elf who looks up, but he too immediately bows his head again;
[+teal “Your Highness Augustine, it is an honour to have your presence. To what do we owe the pleasure?”] He speaks softly, respectfully, a genial smile on his lips, he pants heavily, regulating his breaths quickly.
[+coral “He was going to kill you!”] The boy protests and accusatory eyes return to the other man who remains like a statue. The Elf nods and chuckles at the accusation.
[+teal “Ah, but Your Highness,”] he says raising his head and looking upon the young Crown Prince of the realm,[+teal “it is naught more than practice. That is your fathers Chief Guard Gerald. We are simply keeping ourselves ready and trained to help defend this Kingdom. There is no foul play afoot here I assure you.”] He looks back to the plated man, nodding at him and gesturing with a flick of his wrist to take leave through the opposite archway. He doesn't need further guidance and does so quickly, leaving the Elf and boy be, the former now standing up sluggishly as the latter turns his attention away and moves across to retrieve the Elf's sword, lifting it up carefully with both hands – just about.
The older male walks across and holds out his hand to the child who nods and offers back his own sword. Taking it back he slides it into the scabbard at his hip, satisfied to have it's weight at his side again. Meeting the inquisitive youth's eye he nods for him to follow, leading him toward a fountain garden not far from the small training area. Here is a beautiful marble fountain etched with intricate and detailed designs and a shining bronze statue of several nude women reaching up to a central cup where the water rises up from. The water itself is remarkably clean and fresh and shimmers in the morning sun that bathes the area in warmth and feeds the many flowers decorating the outer edge.
The duo sit down on the edge of this master craftsman’s piece and after a few seconds to settle the Elf unclasps several pieces of leather and cloth armour, putting them to one side to help cool him.
[+coral “Nicolai?”] His curious voice rose once more.
[+teal “Yes young Augustine.”] The now named Elf replies.
[+coral “Why do you fight with real swords?”] As any young boy he is quite curious and Nicolai knows only too well to answer bluntly; he does not like people to skirt his questions.
[+teal “An acute observation my young Prince,”] he shifts his weight to sit better, removing his gloves now,[+teal “we fight this way because it helps us to reach a new level. If we were to use wooden swords our attacks would not replicate a real battle. This way, we become accustomed to the weight of a real weapon, the impact of a true attack on armour, to accustom ourselves to minor injuries and how to react to it.”]
[+coral “Father only lets me play with wooden ones.”] He seems down trodden by this fact, disgruntled infact.
[+teal “But that is because your father is a wise man, Your Highness. The wooden weapons are much larger and heavier than a real sword for a reason. It builds strength, builds muscle, makes you much stronger and therefore able to use a real blade with ease when the time comes.”] He takes a strip of cloth from around his neck that saves the chain from chaffing his skin, dipping it down into the fountain's cool water, squeezing the excess over his head so that it runs down under his clothing before settling the damp cloth around his neck once more.
He was a rather typical Elf in physical appearance. Tall, slim, black haired and with violet eyes, his skin is lightly tanned and save for a cut on his cheek from the strike not long before it is flawless. But aside from his physical side, in his more social nature, he is perhaps less like his kin. He was a nobleman and a good friend of the King having known him for near three decades now. Lifted up by this friendship to become a General in a small but potent army, he was a key link between the humans and the other races of this realm, seen by some as a token appointment but to many as the King's love and trust for all his subjects. This is what allows him to speak so freely with the young Prince.
[+teal “Though a question of my own, perhaps just as adequate; why are you down here spying Your Highness?”]
[+coral “Mother won't let me speak with Father. She says he needs to rest.”] His eyes cast downward and his head dips a touch, small boot kicking at a loose stone.
[+teal “Well, he is an ill man after all. The healers are the best around. I remember them telling me that some illnesses require fresh air and exercise to cast them out. But others, most indeed, like this one, need the body to rebuild itself naturally and through plenty of peaceful rest.”] His hands come together, fingers interlinking as the boy seems to ignore him outright.
[+coral “He's going to die, isn't he Nicolai?”] He looks up with searching eyes and the Elf brushes a hand through his wet, dark hair. It was a difficult question to answer quickly and he tried to find a softer path to take with it.
Given the boys link to his father, he understands the weight upon his heart, and it is hard to find the right words. He cannot tell the boy that he does not know, or that he has no wish to become embroiled with this type of talk. He is close to the family as a whole. And that is what worried him about being bluntly honest – his mother. She was unpredictable of later. Her life was in turmoil as rumours spread. She was tasked with finding whom was loyal and who wasn't, the death almost seemed a formality at this point. She was best avoided and obeyed to the letter, but personal experience forced him to respond.
[+teal “You never had a chance to meet with my own father. He passed away some twenty years ago now, which is rather young for an Elf, but he was a very good man and he did right by me and my mother.”] It is a sullen start but he nods as he joins the boy looking at the ground.[+teal “I was.. beyond angry, when he died. I blamed myself for a very long time. I felt I had let him down. That I had not done enough to help him or that I could have saved him. That he would be disappointed in me for not keeping him alive through my will and strength alone.”] His voice was rather sombre and muted. His eyes lost their smiling aura too as the painful memories returned and his chest tightened.
There is a pause as he reached across to the young boy and placed a hand on his shoulder. If he had not known the family as well as he did, that act alone would have seen him put to the stocks if not lashed a hundred times. He comes to meet the eye of the Prince and nods at him with growing reassurance and control over his own emotions.
[+teal “But with age came wisdom. Not only that, but your father was a good friend to mine and when he passed, though I was lost for a time, I was never left alone, never cast aside. I was well cared for by him. Over time and with his help I came to understand that my father loved me, that he cared for me quite deeply. Your father taught me, that death is inevitable in life. It is the natural order of this world and life continues on and though we should grieve, yes, of course we rightly should, we should not let it consume us.”] His words are not all truthful but the point must be made. He squeezed his shoulder with a touch of affection and that charming smile returned a little.
[+teal “Look, if he does pass, then I want you to remember two things Augustine; I will be here to help guide you and help your mother where I can as your father did for me in my time of need,”] his smile grew a touch at the thought of the Queen admonishing him as she had before, and not once,[+teal “and you are loved deeply by your parents no matter what.”] His hand pats the boys shoulder to reaffirm his words and they exchange a nod of understanding. He couldn't expect to make him laugh and smile in a dark time as this but to at least give him some help in a troubling time may do wonders.
[+coral “I.. I think, I understand a little Nicolai. Thank you.”] He speaks quietly in deep personal thought and the tall man stands up with a grunt as bone and muscle ache, hand brushing at his face in a little pain.
[+teal “Now, I need to go see if Gerald has broken my cheekbone – that man can punch!”] Nicolai hisses as he touched at the swelling.[+teal “But, in the meantime, I want you to be kind to your mother. She needs your strength now. Be polite and listen to what she tells you. Or I'll have you join me next time in the training grounds.”] He winks playfully and gives a formal salute and bow to the Crown Prince. It would pay dividends later to keep on the good side of the future King and showing this level of respect may endear him more to the young boy; if not, it wouldn't hurt to try. Standing upright he collects what little armour he had removed before leaving.
Sides were being drawn as the King ailed toward inevitable death. Everyone had to choose, there would be no straddling of the lines in this. And the moment you made that new, congruent, and committed decision of whom you allied yourself to – your life had changed forever.
/ 1y 285d 17h 22m 40s
Being mid-spring, the weather was fair in Wistina. Although that was the case most year round, the warm ocean surrounding them on nearly all sides kept the temperature temperate. And while the Capital of Belldale was some several miles off the coastline, the sea breeze still rolled through the bustling city. It carried the thick aroma of street food though the southern streets. An enticing smell to coax people to the marketplace.
Just north of it all, in the center of the city, was the castle, home to the royal family. Inside, the atmosphere was completely different. Unbeknownst to the people of the nation, their leader was ill. And his condition was worsening. Cold sweats, horrendous coughing fits, and he complained of a pounding headache. And oh did he complain. There was no rest for anyone, as he demanded constant attention. The queen did her best to keep him company, but the perpetual whining was more than she could bear for any extended period of time. And so she was in and out to see her ailing husband, even though it was becoming more and more evident that these were liable to be his final days. As insufferable as she found the man, she had hoped that he would hold on to life a little longer. He was only in his early fifties for god’s sake. Their son was only eight, if he was to be crowned he would need to be put under the care of an advisor and that never went well. She didn’t trust those men. They had done well by her husband, but there was no saying they would do the same for Augustine. And there was only so much she could do on her own from her position.
After a longer visit than normal, Florence exited the king’s quarters, her lady in waiting and a guard in tow. She sighed before starting off. The trio passed a throng of councilors and nobles that were scrambling to see the king. Just in case. It wasn’t all bad, at the very least they weren’t bothering her. She was fairly tired of visitors at this point. With her husband bed ridden she was left to do the greeting.
Muted thumping reverberated off stonewalls as she walked along the rug that ran the length of the hallway. With any luck she would have a moment to do as she pleased. There was never any way to be sure, so she opted to do what she wanted for now. Someone would call for her if she was needed.
In her fleeting spare time, the dark haired woman decided to visit her child. Augustine was a reserved boy. And while being shy wasn’t the best trait for a future monarch, she was counting her blessings that he wasn’t an outspoken oaf. Although, the boy must have taken a liking to the type, as he was fond of his father. She thought it unfortunate, as the man’s illness was taking a greater toll on Augustine with them being closer.
Over the course of the week the king’s condition steadily deteriorated. Eventually, Florence banned their son from visiting. He was a mess with worry and she was sure he’d be permanently scarred if he happened to be there when his father passed. And it was only a matter of time until he did. The whole castle, staff, court, and visitors, were all on pins and needles waiting for the news. The whispering of rumors could be heard behind most closed doors. No one was quite sure what would come of it, but many feared for the state of the nation.
There was one such conversation taking place behind a door that had been carelessly been left ajar. The queen who had been passing by caught wind of voices she recognized leaking from the unsealed room, a pair of advisors. The woman stopped, just out of sight of the open door to have a listen. Turning toward Meredith, her lady in waiting, she put a hand signaling her to stop where she was and be silent.
[+lightslategray “-we may be in good standing now, but I don’t expect many of our allied nations will have the same respect for us with such a young ruler…”] He was cut off by a gruffer, more mature voice.
[+firebrick “Of course they won’t! We’ve been on thin ice for the last thirty years with King Germaine at the helm. It’ll be the same all over again with his spawn.”]
[+lightslategray “There has to be a way around, I mean, with him so young there is still time to mold him, With a proper advisor to teach him things might not be so bleak.”]
[+firebrick “Hah! You optimistic fool, it’s already in his blood. There’s no work around for that. We have to start over completely!”] Invigorated at the thought, his voice boomed.
Eyes narrowing, Florence had stumbled upon proof of her suspicions. She would need to be even more vigilant now that it was clearly more than paranoia. Standing absolutely still, she scarcely breathed so that she might hear what they said next, but before they went on, someone called loudly behind her.
[+blue “Your Majesty, what brings you here?”] The onyx eyed man spoke out emphatically, more so than necessary. She was quite certain it was to warn the others inside.
Biting the inside of her cheek with a look of annoyance, it was gone by the time she turned face. Florence replaced it with a serene smile. [+mediumseagreen “I am on my way to the entrance hall. They are hanging a tapestry and I wanted to be sure it is done properly.”]
His eyebrows bounced up, a look of surprised flashing across his face. [+blue “What a coincidence. I was just called there myself. Might I be so bold as to supply you company on your walk?”]
[+mediumseagreen “I suppose that would be fine.”] Her tone was gracious, but moderately disinterested. It was clear he was after something with the gesture.
Taking a step forward she looked through the open doorway, locking eyes with the closer of the two men. [+mediumseagreen “Gentlemen.”] The word was accompanied by a nod. Then she continued on her way, now with a man she didn’t quite remember the name of, and who was overtly eager to chat with her. Although, all her responses left something to be desired, as her mind was elsewhere. She needed to formulate a plan. Here very soon this place would not be safe for neither her nor Augustine.
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