The Lioness Awakens
, on FlickrAs the door opened, Cordelia and Martin both spun on their heels to look at who had followed them to the balcony of the tower at such an early hour when most servants would be just waking up, let alone roaming the castle.
Standing before her, illuminated in the orange glow of Martin’s torch, was the mousy man she had seen in the throne room. His dark clothing accentuated his thin frame, and his eyes were beady, dragged down by massive bags. Cordelia could never recall having heard the man’s name.
“Prince Martin, Your Radiance Princess Cordelia, you have been summoned to the inner council room. There is no time for questions now, but you must follow me. Quickly!” With that, the measly little man bolted down the stairwell, leaving the couple to pursue.
In the bare stone corridor, Cordelia’s confusion manifested itself. While she certainly would not attempt to ask the frantic, maroon garbed man any questions, she was more than willing to ask Martin.
“Martin, who is this man? Why are we obeying him so willingly, when he gives us no answers?” Cordelia asked quietly, a tinge of fear in her tone. She grasped Martin’s sleeve gently.
“Why, Cordelia, that is none other than Walter, royal advisor to my father and myself. He means us no harm, I am sure of it. He promised to explain, and he is not a man to go back on his word.” Martin comforted Cordelia as they wounded around a corner into another hallway, lacking windows completely. Walter whirled around and opened a door, beckoning the couple inside.
The room was relatively square, and lacking any windows. This must be why it is called the inner council. Cordelia mused. Despite this, the chamber was more ornately furnished than any other in the entire castle.
Seven chairs were arranged before a massive oak table, patterned with white, gray, and black. One of the chairs was the Ice Throne, and in it sat King Martin V, lacking both his scepter and the Sankta Glavo. Even in the basking glory of the king, the others in the room sat in equally, if not exceedingly, decorative thrones. Robert sat in a the most modest of the chairs present, while Archibald was perched upon a lean, slim, wooden chair decked with dark blue cloth. Cordelia sat herself on a chair made of black iron, and Martin moved to a wooden chair inlaid with granite. Walter sat across from Cordelia, in a white marble throne smoothly cut and decorated with emeralds. To his left sat a man with combed brown hair and a jolly face, clutching a goblet and sitting on a stone seat.
All around the room were paintings and other artifacts from all over the Three Continents, including a bejeweled dagger set upon a carved birch wood base that begged for Cordelia’s attention. At the near center of the table sat a blue tinted candleholder, and on it sat a lit candle, flickering ever so slightly. Strewn across the tabletop were a plethora of maps and documents, with a folded piece of paper that caught Cordelia’s eye.
Looking around the room, Cordelia noticed two other men standing to the left and right of King Martin, and a third, a red priest, poised to scribble all manners of conversation. To the king’s left was a man decked in dark green cloth and bright chainmail, with a strange curved blade at his side. To the king’s right stood what could only be the White Apothecary, his mane of hair standing bright against his ivory colored robes. Cordelia’s eyes grew wide. What could be the meaning of all this?
The king was the first to speak, breaking the silence that lay heavy over the windowless chamber. Clearing his throat, he wore a hard, taut countenance, creating an air of tension in the tightly packed room.
“Now that we are all here, we will begin. Walter, if you would please inform the princess and my son on the matter brought here today.” His eyes were closed by the time he completed his statement, which sent chills running through Cordelia’s spine.
“Your Radiance Princess Cordelia, I have a mix of news to alert you of.” Walter began, his voice much frailer, but less frantic, than in the stairwell. “Your father, Emperor Edward VI, perished a few days ago. He went peacefully after months of suffering, it appears.”
Cordelia’s face grew white, and she could feel the pit of her stomach writhing. Sitting comfortably before, she was not fidgeting in the chair. It was all she could do not to cry. Then it is ended. Thomas has won, and now the Lion Empire will experience more violence and war in the years to come. My dear father…
“However.” Walter nearly barked the word, calling Cordelia’s attention back to what he was speaking of. “Before he died, your father had written a will. Normally, this would be unremarkable, but this will contains some… remarkable contents. Your Radiance… your late father has named you to be heir of the empire.”
At that moment, Cordelia’s heart dropped into her churning stomach, and she felt as if she would faint. All thoughts disappeared for an instance, leaving a blank white slate for her mind’s eye to observe. Within seconds, her mind was flooded with a pantheon of questions, and internal screams.
“I… no. No, this cannot be, there must be some mistake here.” Cordelia stated, shaking nervously. “As much as I would despise to admit it, Thomas is the heir of the empire. He is in line for the throne, not me!”
“Your Radiance, there is no mistake.” The gruff man to Walter’s left was saying. “Archibald and Walter confirmed the will’s legitimacy, including a letter from High Priest Patrick of the Lion Order.”
“But… no, this is a farce! I… I am in no position to inherit the Empire!” Cordelia raised her voice, but it too began to tremble. Her face was warm, and tears welled in her eyes.
“I can assure you, Your Radiance, there is no reason to be frightened. We are here to aid you in your quest to reclaim your throne.” Archibald said calmly, knocking his staff quietly on the floor as he did so.
“I do not believe we have come to a conclusion about whether or not we are going to see this claim through, High Priest.” This time, it was Robert speaking. His normal grin was there, but Cordelia recognized it as a grin more out of habit than a legitimate smile. Of course he is afraid. Cordelia pondered. My brute of a brother will have him murdered before he succeeds in putting me on the Gold Throne.
“But what else are we to do? Her father, former emperor, dictates it. We must abide by his will!” Walter spoke, anger rising in his voice. He glared at Robert, and others in the room began to squabble, and before long his voice was barely distinguishable from all the others.
Cordelia noted the few in the room who did not speak: herself, the White Apothecary, the red priest writing passionately in the corner, and Martin. Martin looked just as uncomfortable and scared as he did the first day that Cordelia had encountered him. She blinked back tears as best as she could.
The White Apothecary stood there, holding his aged staff, capped with a silver crown. He watched the men bicker all around him, yet made no motion to hinder them. His beard rustled softly as he turned to look at each of the council members, but he spoke no words of his own. Cordelia thought, for just a moment, that she could see a smile beneath all the white.
The twelfth chapter of my recent story, A Lion In The Wyvern's Nest
. Unfortunately, there are no additional photos available yet as Brickshelf is currently down. I will admend that later, and as always other chapters of the story can be read here.