Unnormal Normalcy

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King of Blades – Chapter 3 “History Lesson”

Coulta spent the next day going over every single report he’d received from his spies over the last year – since he’d become spymaster and Second King. By the afternoon, though, his head was aching and he was scared that he was both reading too far into simple matters and not reading into other matters far enough.

“Tea?”

He jumped and reached for the nearest item he could use as a weapon – a paperweight – before he realized it was only Myri standing in the doorway of his office. He put the paperweight back and rubbed his face. “Thanks.”

“I didn’t realize tea could be so offensive,” she said as she approached his desk. “Overworking yourself again, killer?”

Coulta scowled at her. “I thought you had stopped calling me that.”

She shrugged and held out the mug of steaming tea. “You were about to attack me with a paperweight,” she pointed out.

He took the tea, thanking her. “Natural reaction. How is Anil?”

“She seems to be doing fine. I’m still demanding she stay on bed rest for a time. Where’s Wildas? I thought he’d be having another meeting.”

Coulta blew on the tea, which was far too hot to drink yet. “Shelton convinced him to wait until this evening. He was supposed to hear petitions today.”

“I would have thought he’d want you to help him with that,” Myri said thoughtfully, crossing her arms. “It’s supposed to be part of your duties.”

He snorted. “Me? I’d run the country into the ground before the end of the day. I am terrible with politics. Do you know where Shelton is? It would be helpful to have him look these notes over and make sure I haven’t missed anything.”

“I’ll go find him,” she offered. “Drink that tea. I’m sure you have a headache, and it will help.”

“Thank you,” he replied as she left.

Even though he knew he needed to keep reading over his reports, Coulta forced himself to ignore that need. Instead, he paced around the fire-lit room and sipped his tea. The royal offices were interior rooms, each one placed between each king’s bedchamber and the hallway, so the room lacked windows and was lit only by candlelight. Coulta and Wildas were the only two of the four spouses with offices, but only because queens rarely held political jobs that required such spaces.

Anil was the head of the royal stables, and – before being put on bed rest – was usually there speaking to the breeders and trainers, working to keep the bloodlines of the royal steeds of Ryal pure and the horses trained perfectly for everything they were needed for. Coulta recalled getting his own Ryal-bred stallion when he had first fled Arren with Wildas; it was a remarkable black stallion named Quiver, who had belonged to Wildas’ uncle, the captain of the Royal Guard who had been murdered before Coulta could prevent it. The stallion had since sired several foals, which Anil had shown him. According to her, they would all grow up to be fine horses. Coulta trusted her opinion.

Myri was a healer who usually spent her days in the infirmary, tending to wounded or ill castle servants, or giving advice to improve the training of younger healers. Though she was an experienced healer, she hardly had any magical abilities to speak of, unlike many of the other healers within the capital. Her powers could really only be used to infuse herbs for salves and teas with magic to speed healing by a small amount, and for diagnosing illnesses. She knew much about healing, however, and she was a queen, which together put her in high demand within the castle. Often, she made visits to royal family members – Wildas had ten siblings, and more cousins, aunts, and uncles than Coulta could even fathom, though only a few actually resided within the castle grounds or the surrounding city of Ryal. Coulta could hardly imagine what the royal family would be like if more than a few members followed the marriage tradition, which was only required of the eldest son. There would be no other class than the royal class if everyone took to the tradition and had multiple children.

The click of his office door opening disrupted his thoughts, and he turned to see his mentor, Former Second King Shelton, enter the room. He had known that it wouldn’t take long for Shelton to arrive, since his chambers were just down the hall and he was usually at work on some sort of magical spell or studying some sort of book or doing whatever else sorcerers did when they suddenly didn’t have the demands of being a king or keeping track of spies. Coulta envied him, just a bit.

“Myri said you’re working yourself to the point of perpetual sickness over here,” Shelton told him as he shut the door.

Coulta set down his mostly untouched tea and handed his stack of reports to Shelton. “I’m trying to see if there are any clues as to what’s happening in Port Blasin. By now, I feel like I might be overlooking something or looking too hard into something else.”

Shelton nodded and took the papers, sitting down in one of the large, oak-carved chairs in the room. Coulta sat down in another chair nearby.

“I already see Emperor Reesh’s name,” Shelton said almost immediately.

Coulta nodded. “I saw it, too, but I’m having a difficult time trying to find other references to Dyrai. Why is it that Dyrai would want to create any sort of conflict?”

Shelton sighed and lowered the papers. “I forget how ignorant Lord Varin kept you. Dyrai has been an enemy of ours for generations. It is an island nation ruled by a line of emperor-sorcerers. Well, more like necromancers. They work with dark energies and aren’t afraid to enslave souls. Many of them have been quite unstable. Every so often they invade another land with their armies of cursed souls, demonic creatures, and beings that were created through breeding two races that cannot usually produce a viable hybrid. Many countries don’t have the resources to fight back against such a powerful foe. It takes a great number of well-trained soldiers and many powerful sorcerers to defend a country against them. Phelin has been invaded by Dyrai before, as have our allies, Algoma and Berk. In all cases, we have been able to stand against Dyrai.”

“So we could again,” Coulta said, feeling a bit unnerved by the description of the enemy, but confident after hearing that the invasions had always been failures for Dyrai.

Shelton rubbed his violet eyes. “Reesh has likely created some new hybrid monster or has some other weapon we haven’t seen before, if he’s willing to invade. It will take a great deal of preparation to defend ourselves. I’m already putting out a call to sorcerers around the country to be counted as fighting mages in case war does come.”

Coulta’s headache had lessened since taking some of Myri’s tea, but now it was returning full-force. “What else can I do that I haven’t done?” he asked his mentor. “I sent those three back to Port Blasin. The woman is working in a tavern as a serving-girl. One of the men is working the docks, picking up whatever jobs he can find, and the other – the one with a small amount of magic – is working as a street magician.” Even with Shelton, he wouldn’t give the names of the three, especially because they had likely used different names when working for Shelton. Coulta would do everything he could to protect his people.

Shelton nodded, clearly understanding. “I would suggest sending a political contact to Berk and Algoma. They’re our allies, it’s only fitting that they should know what we may have uncovered. It never hurts to prepare for an attack, even if it doesn’t come.”

“Who can I send?” Coulta questioned, feeling suddenly very tired.

“I will make a few suggestions,” Shelton assured him, “once I read over these records. If I begin to feel certain that it is likely Dyrai, I will assist you in choosing diplomats.”

Coulta nodded. “Thank you.”

The sorcerer smiled grimly. “I only wish you weren’t facing so much hardship so soon into your reign.”

“So do I.”

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December 31, 2011 - Posted by | King of Blades

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