Unnormal Normalcy

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King of Blades – Chapter 1 “Unveiling”

It was a much warmer day than Second King Coulta would have liked, but he had promised both Prince Rohan, commander of the Royal Guard, and Former Queen Yvona, the best swordmaster in the country of Phelin, a sword match. He’d tried to politely decline the invitation the day before, but they had both informed him that he would lose his edge if he spent all of his time obsessing over the status of his spies and sitting in his office. Though, he had to admit that it was a great stress remover to fight a skilled opponent in the arena. If he used his full abilities, he’d be able to defeat them both easily, but without magic they were all almost evenly matched.

Coulta barely avoided a sneak attack by Rohan, and as he spun away he noticed the crowd that had gathered around the practice arena. It seemed like people were always drawn there when someone convinced him to fight. He didn’t know if it had to do with him being the Second King, or his skill with blades, or the exotic look the odd marks on his skin gave him, or maybe this time it was because three members of the royal family were dueling together. Coulta blocked a hit by Yvona and realized that Former Second King Shelton was leaning on the fence, speaking to Queen Myri.

Suddenly, Shelton pointed a finger at the three fighters, and none of them could move. Coulta was frozen with one sword blocking another attack by Yvona, and his other sword locked with Rohan’s. They all knew who was doing this to them, because they all knew how powerful a sorcerer Shelton was, but that didn’t stop the annoyance Coulta felt. He locked eyes with Rohan, who let out a deep breath of exasperation through his nose. Coulta could feel it on his face, so he exhaled right back at the prince, who did it again. It was quickly becoming a breathing war before Shelton finally released them.

“You should probably all get cleaned up,” the sorcerer told them, once they had all gotten their balance again. “I was just told that we have an unveiling to attend.”

So the master sculptor had finally finished the late Grand King’s statue. Coulta sheathed his swords and followed his family back to the massive castle. He sighed as soon as he got inside, and instantly felt a hundred times cooler than he had outside.

Coulta bathed and was just finishing dressing in his typical black clothing when Grand King Wildas entered his room through the door joining their two rooms. Wildas was dressed in dark green, making his hazel eyes look more green than brown, and his chestnut hair was loose. His expression was pained and distant.

Coulta finished pulling on his black boots – he still refused to wear the uncomfortable shoes all the other court members wore – and walked over to his husband. Wildas didn’t object when Coulta pulled him into his arms, but it wasn’t a contented sigh that Wildas released when he put his arms around Coulta.

“This is the last thing that we do for him,” Wildas said quietly. “Then I have to accept that he’s really gone.”

“I know,” Coulta replied, even though he didn’t really understand what Wildas was feeling. After all, he had never really known his father, and had no memories of him.

Wildas took a deep breath, and Coulta knew he was fighting to stay in control of his emotions. He pulled away slightly, and Coulta kissed him. Wildas kissed him in return, then took another deep breath to compose himself. “We should go.”

Coulta nodded and followed him out. Queen Myri was waiting, dressed in a violet gown. When they joined her, she hugged Wildas. Moments later, Queen Anil also joined them, dressed in a gown similar to the one her wife wore. Coulta thought she looked remarkably well, considering her reported boughts of recent morning sickness – she had announced to them only two weeks earlier that she was carrying the Grand King’s heir. It was something that Coulta was trying to get used to. Anil was his wife as much as Wildas’, which meant that the child was also his, even though biologically it was impossible – Coulta’s curse had rendered him infertile.

Together, the four of them made their way down to the elaborate entrance hall of the castle, where statues of all the past kings, Grand and Second, lined the hall. In front of a veiled statue, they found the sculptor, several of Wildas’ many siblings, uncles, aunts, and cousins, Former Second King Shelton – dressed in his violet sorcerer’s robes – and Former Queens Yvona and Xiao. Both women were wearing dark gowns, and Xiao looked like she hadn’t been eating or sleeping well for quite some time. Coulta knew she hadn’t been handling the death of her husband as well as her remaining spouses were handling it, but he hadn’t expected her to look quite this unwell.

“She’s not well,” Myri said quietly, so that Coulta and Anil could hear her, but not Wildas, who was speaking to the master sculptor.

“Can you do anything for her?” Anil questioned softly. “You’re a healer.”

“Yes, but I can’t do anything for someone who refuses my help,” the other queen argued. “I’ve tried to help her numerous times. She won’t let me.”

“The last thing Wildas needs at the moment is to lose a mother,” Coulta pointed out.

Myri shook her head and sighed. “I know. Trust me, I know. There’s simply nothing I can do.”

The conversation was disrupted by the squat sculptor raising his voice to speak to all of them. “My lords and ladies, your majesties and highnesses, it has been an honor to sculpt the likeness of His Majesty, Grand King Deandre. I present to you now my life’s work.”

Coulta thought the artist was a bit over-dramatic, especially when he bowed low enough to nearly touch the floor with his wild hair. But the statue truly was a masterpiece. Deandre stood before them, immortalized in marble, holding a shield that bore the leaping-steed crest of the royal family. A long cape flowed around him shoulders, and on his head was a marble replica of the grand crown that now belonged to Wildas, and was only worn for public ceremonies. And his face was remarkably detailed. If the statue hadn’t been devoid of human color, Coulta would have thought the Former Grand King could come alive again.

Coulta jumped when a hand gripped his shoulder, and started to lift his arms in natural defense, until he realized it was Rohan.

“One of your agents is here,” the prince told him quietly, taking his hand back. “He’s injured.”

Which would explain why someone had returned before Coulta had expected them. “Is he in the infirmary?”

Rohan nodded. “I don’t know how bad he is, but he was having trouble staying conscious.”

“Do you need me?” Myri questioned.

“The other healers can take care of him, they said,” Rohan answered. “Just get there as soon as you can. But, Coulta, you should see him now, in case he doesn’t make it.”

Coulta nodded, and turned to his wives. “Tell Wildas and Shelton.”

They both nodded, and Wildas followed Rohan toward the infirmary. He had a feeling it was the same spy who had contacted him a week ago. The spy had told him that he might have been found out, but Coulta had told him to stay where he was until he knew for sure. Now he doubted his own judgment, and he needed to know what was actually going on.

That wasn’t to happen, though. As soon as he stepped into the infirmary, a young healer ran up to him. She bowed, then informed him, “He died, Your Highness. I’m sorry.”

Coulta nearly slammed his fist into the stone wall from frustration, but the young woman’s next words kept him from doing something that foolish.

“He told me one thing before he died. War’s coming.”

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December 12, 2011 - Posted by | King of Blades, Writing

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