After the council had bickered and argued for some time, Cordelia refused to submit herself to the torture any longer. Standing up, with tears slowly beginning to stream down her face, she snatched the will off the table and ran from the room, not caring what they may have said or thought of her.
In her chambers, she wept on the bed profusely. Cordelia could not fathom how her father had thought to entrust her with the throne. She was not born to be Empress, she was born to live her life as Queen of the Wyvern Kingdom, just as Thomas had intended. Thomas was the true heir, the rightful heir of the Gold Throne. He had thrust her into this new life, and she had finally learned to enjoy and accept it.
Yet, she could not shake the horrific visions of what life would be like with Thomas as the reigning monarch. She envisioned gold banners flapping in the wind upon flagstaffs, descending upon helpless villages, ravaging the countryside. At the head of the party was Thomas, laughing maniacally and claiming his right to conquer and destroy all that he felt necessary. A cold shiver ran down Cordelia’s spine. More tears dripped onto the bed.
A sharp knock on the door brought her back to reality. Her scarlet bedspread was drenched in tears, and gold detailed furniture lusted in the faint light let in by the window. White roses sat in a vase on the small nightstand, a souvenir from one of Martin and Cordelia’s adventures into Lorraine’s garden. The will sat unattended on a small desk in the furthest corner from the door.
“Go away! I am not to be disturbed!” Cordelia shouted, becoming even more irritated. Not only had they crushed my contentedness, now they come to pester me? She thought.
“Your Radiance, I meant only the best by visiting you. If you truly wish for me to go, I certainly will.” Came the answer from beyond the closed door. It was a soft-spoken voice that Cordelia did not recognize, and it was soothing even while it wasn’t saying anything particular.
“Who…who is it?” Cordelia’s curiosity had suppressed her weeping cries for the moment. She sat up to face the door.
“It is only I, Alfred. The White Apothecary, Your Radiance. Do you still wish me gone?” Alfred said, his voice an unchanging soothing song.
Cordelia remained surprised. She had never spoken to the man directly, but his calming nature made her feel less angry. “No… no, you can come in if you like.”
The doorknob jiggled slightly, and the door creaked to let the ivory robed man in. Alfred definitely lived up to his title, and his robes were almost blindingly white, even in the dimly lit room. He propped his staff up on the dresser and stepped closer into the room.
“I am quite sorry to disturb you, Your Radiance. I felt that my words might help you in your decision. Would you mind if I shared them?” Alfred asked, and then paused, allowing Cordelia to sit upright even more and nod approvingly. “Excellent. Then I will begin.
“Let me first apologize for the turn of events as it has come to pass, Your Radiance. To have a father die is heartbreaking enough, let alone to be thrust into the political realm of the middle kingdoms. But I must advocate for your succession to the throne.
“Just last year, I was in the Crown Kingdom studying with the Gray Apothecary. In the city of Ardon, we were well known and well loved. Many of the apothecaries were running around the Middle Continent that time, as you may remember, to help diplomatically dissolve the threat that the Bat Kingdom posed. The Blue and Red Apothecaries both were part of my party before we decided to split out strength. By this point, an army had been massed, and was making it’s way east into the Bat Kingdom.
“You are no doubt aware that there was a foul pact between Thomas, your brother, and Edmund, your uncle, to betray the rest of the factions and pursue their own interests. And it came to be in that fateful time, that Stephen II of the Crown Kingdom was slain by a Lion archer. Thomas declared war on the Crown and Dragon Kingdoms, just to meet his end of establishing a puppet state further east.
“The war ravaged the Crown Kingdom’s countryside, killing thousands. Both aforementioned Blue and Red Apothecaries witnessed such brutalities, and both narrowed escaped being murdered themselves. Further and further west the war party went, until it reached the walls of Ardon. I was in the city at the time, and I barely escaped with my life. The same cannot be said for hundreds of innocent men, women, and children, as well as those former Crown loyalists who were butchered by their friends who now bore the Crowned Lion emblem.
“It is for this reason, Your Radiance, and this reason alone that I implore you to accept the title as Empress. I care not for the political gains or losses of the many lords and kings, but I do care for the lives of those they claim to protect. Your brother Thomas, as I am sure you are fully aware, is a tyrant in the making with a blood thirst unlike any of our time.”
Alfred paused for a moment, and from a large pocket in his robe procured a folded golden banner. He unfurled it in his old hands, and stared at is while he spoke again.
“You could just as easily destroy that will, Your Radiance, and forget the entire decision ever bothered you. You could pretend you are unaware of the violence and pure evil that Thomas will force upon your former homeland, and the instability he will caused across the continents, maybe even this far north.” Alfred shook his head, his beard ruffling slowly with it. “But I would not think as highly of you as I do now, and I do not think your people would as well, neither here nor there.”
With that, he placed the golden banner on the bureau and turned to leave the room. He grasped his staff and closed the door quietly behind him.
At this point Cordelia was standing close to the desk, although she did not recall ever standing up. The will still sat there, eliciting an air of unease in the room. Cordelia’s tears had since stopped flowing, and a sudden sense of clarity took over her.
The choice is mine. She thought, as a smile crept up on her. For once, I am in control.
The thirteenth chapter of my latest story A Lion In The Wyvern's Nest, the rest of which can be read here. C&C always welcome.