Dante

A medieval fantasy romance set in a fictional land.

1. It Starts With A Murder

“Sir,” Lord Rowling protested, rising from his chair in frustration. “You don’t seem to understand--”

“Sir, I understand your frustration perfectly but understand me when I say the French will not attack.” Prince Curstov replied calmly from his seat at the far end of the long table. “Please be seated good sir.”

Lord Rowling sighed returning to his seat to the right of Curstov on the long table. Curstov sat at the head, glancing around at the other 12 Lords. They had fallen silent once Lord Rowling and Curstov had begun to argue, seeing that there was no chance Curstov would change his mind.

The discussion hall was a large chamber with plenty of windows. The curtains of which had been drawn to shut out the heat of the summer sun yet the dense summer air still managed to push its way into the room where it hung stagnantly, mingling with the pipe smoke only adding to the discomfort and irritation of the group.

Lord Rowling wiped his brow with a handkerchief speaking silently but forcefully to the young prince.

  “Sir, you can’t just ignore his threats you must respond to D’Aramitz! The people need--”

“I don’t have to respond to anything! He come over here threatening us with his simple weapons and demand that we listen to him--obey him! Who does he think we are? Who does he thinkheis?! We may be a smaller country but we’ve more weapons, we have magic! There is no way in this world his army can beat us in war.”

“But Sir--” Rowling protested. This rejoinder was met by an exasperated eruption of sighs and mumbles from the other Lords.

“Just leave it Sir Rowling.” Insisted Lord Tanner.

“Sir, maybe we should call a recess.” Lord Rowling offered, slightly subdued by the lack of support.

“Yes, stretch, walk about, and call one of the servants to bring forth a meal. I fear we shall only be here longer.” Curstov sighed, standing quickly.

“Will you come this way with me?” Lord Rowling asked of Curstov.

Curstov picked up his goblet from the table and followed Lord Rowling out onto the balcony. He blinked in the hot sun taking a sip of his wine.

“Sir, you don’t seem to understand the morale of the people. The kingdom is unstable, your brother's extended absences have led many people to wonder if there is something amiss with him and hideous rumors are spreading.” Lord Rowling started.

“Oh damn those rumors none of them are true!”

“Of course not Sir, but the people are hearing them and you, their acting king, do nothing to stop the spread of those rumors by perhaps contradicting them with the status of your brother. And you don’t even respond to the threat from the French. Sir, to your people you are beginning to appear weak!”

“WEAK!”

“It’s bad enough that you are only a boy.”

“A boy!—oh, Rowling you are very good.”

“Good, good at what my lord?”

“Soliciting a response from me, but I’m not going to lower myself to respond to such false andsillyaccusations as those presently circulating.”

Lord Rowling sighed rubbing his temples.

“You’re not lowering yourself to anything Sir.” He muttered through gritted teeth. “The people cannot endure a silent king much longer, if you do not speak up, if you do not show some leadership there will be a great unrest. The people are afraid that they have no one to lead them.”

“Lord Rowling you forget, I amnotKing.”

“Yes, but let’s face it neither is your brother.”

“How dare you--”

“Curstov, Sir, I love you and your brother, you’re like sons to me, but you know better than I, King Richard is unfit to rule after his tragedy. He can’t lead his people if he can’t even lead his own life anymore. If you don’t take charge there are men out there, rebels, that will gladly take your position as next in line for the throne.”

Curstov sighed placing his goblet down on the railing; the hot sun glanced off the silver of vessel.

“Lord Rowling I appreciate your input but I can’t go to war without my brother's approval. Even If I could, you know our financial state; we can’t afford to go to war and if we raise the taxes once more there will be an uprising from within.”

“At least call D’Aramitz’s bluff Sir!”

“If it’s a bluff then why call it. His words are weightless they fall like snow on my shoulders and I shake them off, that is all.”

“Not everyone sees your indifference as a show of strength, rather to many it appears as cowardice.”

“Are you one of those misguided few?”

“Sir, I wouldn’t doubt you, I only seek to help you lead your people out of these dark times.”

“I appreciate your efforts but I have an adviser for that.” Curstov reminded.

“Well where is Martin? Why is he not here?” Lord Rowling demanded, he turned pulling the curtains apart and glanced into the discussion hall. “Why, isn’t he here--dusting ash off the table and straightening everyone’s coat tails.”

Curstov laughed.

“Oh don’t tease Martin, I’ve banned him from the room for that very reason, his habit was getting on my nerves.”

Rowling laughed too, some of the tension leaving both of their brows.

“Really? I thought after being raised by the man you might be used to his little—how did you say...?”

“Compulsion. There are some things you never get used to.”

“But shouldn’t he be present for this matter?”

“He knows the issue.”

“And he’s against you responding to King Janvier D’Aramitz’ threats of war?”

“He has his reasons. He thinks it will cause conflict between me and my brother, if I try to over step my bounds. I wouldn’t go against Richard for the whole of France.” Curstov answered firmly.

“I can’t seem to persuade you Sir of the seriousness of your inaction.” Rowling replied tossing his arms up as he began to surrender his point.

Curstov turned his attention back to the room beyond the curtains as the sound of the discussion hall doors opening, reached them.

“Are they leaving without us already?” Curstov asked, pushing aside the curtains. The two men stepped off the balcony, back into the discussion hall. No one had left yet but there was another added to the party. Martin, a short, squat elderly man with a thick crimson beard of which he was very proud stood in the entrance fiddling with his coat pockets and glancing about the room. 

“Martin.” Curstov called striding over to the man.

“Sir, a messenger from your brother is waiting for you out in the courtyard. He says he’ll speak to no one but you. He swears it is urgent and that you must come immediately.”

“He wouldn’t even tell you the nature of this matter?” Curstov asked taken aback.

“He said it was of the gravest importance and for your ears only.”

“Oh.” Curstov muttered slapping away Martin's hands as he tried to straighten his tunic collar distractedly. “Control yourself Martin.” He scolded.

Martin chuckled silently at the familiar joke.

 Curstov turned to address the room at large.

“I’m afraid we must extend this recess a bit longer. I’m terribly sorry but something has come up. As soon as I return we will continue this discussion.”

“What’s the matter Sir?” Rowling inquired in a low whisper coming to stand beside Curstov.

“I’m about to find out.” Curstov said, grimacing. “I do hate this dark tone of mystery that encompasses this whole matter.” He turned to Martin. “Come, lead me to this messenger.”

“This way Sir.” Martin turned on his heels and lead Curstov from the room and down the hall.

“He really wouldn’t tell you anything?” Curstov inquired as they reached the stairs.

“He was most vexing in his determination to speak to no one but you.”

Martin led Curstov out into the courtyard where they found the messenger standing, shaded by the corner of the castle. He looked very grim indeed. He wore the black and blue uniform of King Richards guard.

“Afternoon Sir, news of  my brother?.” Curstov greeted as they approached.

“Your Highness,” The guard bowed. “I have grave news for you.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“Please Sir, follow me.”

Curstov tossed Martin an annoyed look.

The End

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