Noctis stirred with unease at the sound of an announcement from Caradus Castle. At first, it spurred cheer and happiness, and upon continuation – growing unease. In time, the city gates opened, to welcome the return of King Antiochus, and with him – a prisoner of renown. At the sight of the latter, the citizens of Noctis gulped, some out of fear, and others out of amazement.
Zane Morgul followed the Generals into the castle, through a path paved by the Noxun people. A walk, slow enough to allow for children to push through for a view even. The Godvildian Lord remained shackled through the journey, via use of chains, enchanted to seal and obstruct Aeterna from offering aid. King Antiochus led the march until the castle and later stepped away to engage in conversation with one of his Generals.
“Do not take him to prison; prepare a room instead,” said Ceraunus. “In the meantime, could you please let Lady Inaya know of our arrival?”
“Very well, My King,” said the General. “Should I ask her to meet you at your chambers?”
“Please do,” said Ceraunus. “And do send message about what we had previously discussed.”
Godvildian. Noxun. Relictan. In Mioverold, the three great races held unprecedented power. Historical records often favored them also – covering volumes around cordial alliances, vicious betrayals, and unceasing wars. In the eyes of lesser races, they stood atop a plateau of unreachability. But among those not loved by the gods, existed a race determined to defy hierarchy – humans.
With reckless abandon, the humans of Mioverold drove toward the opposite of natural magic, seeking advancement by means of science. In their pursuit of greatness, many fell to the embrace of death and disease. It possessed them, their desire to stand atop Mioverold, to be recognized and admired. Years passed, and just as the darkness of failure threatened to swallow the last of them, something occurred – an event that led to the emergence of a king.
It was magic, invented by a human, and without the acknowledgement of a god. A large portion of the earth trembled upon its creation, tearing away from the grasp of Mioverold. It forced its way past the winds, skyward, and settled atop the clouds, creating a story of its own.
“Our story, forged by the will of our first king – Castor Argonaut,” said a man, addressing a group of children. “Do you want to hear more?”
“Yes, King Mallan!” said the children, in unison.
“King Argonaut ensured that we became children of the sky,” said Mallan, with a smile. “With his magic, he created armor and weapons without compare; eventually, the three great races had started to refer to us as High Humans in acknowledgement of our evolution. And since then, we’ve only strived to become better, to honor our first king.”
Mallan Argonaut rarely held the appearance of a king. Seventh to ascend the throne, he walked among his subjects as a commoner would, ordinarily dressed, but with features hard to ignore; it stemmed from his royal bloodline, and his people – from the floating kingdom of Themistokera – adored every aspect of what made him a great king.
“Tell us more!” said the children, louder this time.
“I’m afraid I’m out of time,” said Mallan, apologetically. “Our Prime Minister calls for my attention.”
The children turned to find an old man smiling at them, eager to pry their storyteller away. He bowed to them and later turned to offer the same respect to Mallan Argonaut. When they met, the latter noticed what appeared to be a letter in the hands of his Prime Minister.
“Well met, Minister Majid,” said Mallan. “Good news, perhaps?”
“No, My King; far from it,” said Majid. “Our scouts report the capture of Lord Morgul; King Antiochus failed in his conquest against the Kingdom of Suntaria but managed to tire the Godvildian hero into submission.”
“Eight Generals ranked within the seventh-tier; how interesting,” said Mallan, having given the report a cursory glance. “Lord Zane is truly an exceptional combatant. It’s a shame he was captured.”
“I fear that the Noxun kind will turn their attention to Themistokera next, My King,” said Majid, with a concerned expression on his face. “We must prepare for war; King Antiochus has proven himself to have a nose for blood.”
“That won’t be necessary,” said Mallan, shrugging as he did. “I received word from the Noxun King earlier in the day; I’m sorry for not having mentioned it. King Antiochus is ceasing aggression for now; he’s requested dialogue with me at a neutral territory – my choice, of course.”
“Would you like me to draft a reply, then?”
“It’s going to be a simple message,” said Mallan. “Tell him that we don’t talk to those we don’t trust. If that causes war, then I welcome it.”
Inaya Antiochus knocked on a large wooden door, waited a moment, and then entered right after. She strolled to a table and touched a recently opened letter with her fingertips, curious in her expression. Without worry, she read its contents, twice. Her eyes slowly moved to the fire, and the man seated by it – Ceraunus Antiochus.
“You look worried, My King,” said Inaya, with a bow. “The message leaves you concerned?”
“I’ve told you often not to treat me as others would, Lady Inaya,” said Ceraunus, frowning as he did. “You are the daughter of our former king.”
“But that’s not how royalty works in Mel Ficarum,” reminded Inaya. “After my father fell to illness, Seraphina chose you as his successor. I continue to stay in Caradus Castle because of you, and nothing else.”
“It benefits me to have you around; you’re smart, more than I am,” admitted Ceraunus. “And yes, you’ve read the message – King Mallan Argonaut refused dialogue.”
“I warned you of this when you decided to wage war against all of Mioverold,” said Inaya. “You usually listen, but I suppose your halberd had some insight that I did not.”
“It showed me more than it did your father,” said Ceraunus. “Seraphina urged for Mioverold to unite, but I’ve seen too much of our world to see that it’s impossible. The Godvildian people are too proud to accept an alliance with us, and the High Humans – they’ve continued to alienate themselves further through each succession. We only have the Relictans with us because of a weak generation of lords.”
“And so, you turned to conquest, to force dialogue,” said Inaya. “But think about it, your approach – it was hardly incorrect.”
“You’re too kind,” said Ceraunus, with a smile. “I’ve only faced trouble because of this; even my own people, they suffer because of me.”
“King Ceraunus, you failed because the Godvildian Empire functions as a Republic,” said Inaya. “You spoke to old men, rigid and unmoving. But through war, you’ve caught the attention of a man even the Godvildian leaders can’t ignore. Zane is your answer.”
“Encouraging words,” said Ceraunus, smiling as he did. “But Lord Zane has refused to meet me since our arrival here. I only have three days, Lady Inaya; that’s all I could ask for from my people.”
Inaya stifled a laugh, tossing the letter in her hand. She watched it catch fire, ink and paper – eroding away into nothingness.
“You’ve been very hospitable, King Ceraunus,” said Inaya. “Perhaps it is time for me to earn my stay here; shall I try to engage in conversation with your Lord Zane?”
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