Darkness of Thrones
“I understand that Granny came from a powerful house of de Florencio, but how does that connect to us in hiding?” Arthur asked once again.
“Given her family circumstances, Lady Katarina ran away from home when she was sixteen to become an adventurer,” Duliri answered without a breath.
“That’s right…” Hula’s image inside Arthur’s mind nodded. “You may not believe it, but Lady Allegia was quite the problem child when she was younger. She was rough and outspoken. Well, she’s still very strong, nonetheless. During her travel, that’s when she met the love of her life. After a few more years, they got married and settled on this island to live a peaceful and simple life.”
Arthur grimaced. “So that’s it? That’s why we’re here…?”
Hula laughed at the impatient boy, slowly shaking his head. “That’s not quite right, my lord. It’d be easier to get the History book on your shelf too.”
Arthur complied and quickly grabbed the large fat book from his shelf. However, it was so heavy that he almost dropped it. “This one’s heavy,” he commented.
Hula and Duliri only laughed at him, but once the book rested on the table and Arthur returned to his seat, Hula said, “Please open it at the later part, my lord, since what we’ll talk about is recent history.”
He nodded, rummaging through the pages.
“That part, Arthur!” Duliri interrupted, inching closer to the boy. “That part!”
“Chapter Fifty-Four? Invasion of the Dorc Empire?” Arthur read slowly, a series of goosebumps running down his spine. “Dorc? Isn’t that an Empire from the North?” He slid the giant book to the side and stared at the map before him. His hand carefully traced all the places in the upper portion of the map, his eyes turning slightly bigger when he spotted it. “Wow… It really is!”
“How did you know that?” asked Duliri.
“C’mon, Duliri, have you already forgotten?” Hula answered mockingly. “You discussed it with the lord a week ago. Well, you actually dodged his question-”
“Wait!” Duliri suddenly inched closer to Arthur. “You mean the discussion about Siglein Ariston and Illiseo?”
Arthur nodded slowly.
“But what I said at the time was true though. This is. This is-” he stopped himself, seeing the boy’s skeptical stare.
“Are you sure you want to say that?”
A frustrated grunt echoed from the staff. “Nah… Let’s dismiss that. I don’t think it’s healthy for me to be surprised by you anymore. Anything above normal for you is normal.”
“I don’t think that’s a compliment.”
“Yeah… yeah…” Duliri said in defeat. “Let’s just talk about the Dorc Empire.”
Arthur scratched his head. “You’re kind of different these past few days, Duliri. Usually, you’ll say, ‘Of course not! You’re a really weird kid!’ in an overly and over the top exaggerated voice, instead of changing the subject. Now, you’re too docile. Is there something wrong?”
Duliri didn’t say anything. Instead, he turned around and then flew away.
“Hey, Duliri, I’m talking to you…” His eyes followed the staff’s movement as he stared at the fur behind its back. “Tell me, is there something wrong?”
“C’mon, partner, I still have a lot to ask you-”
“Then you can just ask Hula…”
A humorless laugh came out of his mouth. “Are you seriously sulking right now?”
Wrinkles lined across the boy’s forehead; his brow couldn’t be any closer. He was thinking about how to properly deal with the situation since he was more used to Duliri’s blabbering mouth and melodramatic acts than this silence.
“Just let him be, my lord. Duliri is the type to enjoy-”
“Shhh…” Arthur put his pointer finger in his mouth. “Duliri, if you don’t talk to me right now, then we’re not talking about anything… And you know how much I hate not knowing anything…”
Duliri clicked his non-existent tongue as he flew back to Arthur’s side. “Fine…”
“I know what you’re thinking, Duliri. But let me be clear…” The boy gently patted the staff’s fur. “I want you by my side not because you’re useful or whatever, but because you’re my friend.”
“But you don’t think I’m useless, right?”
“Of course not!” Arthur laughed. “See, you’re making me laugh. You, just being you is making me happy.”
“Do you like me more than Hula?”
“Honestly…” The boy scratched his hair again. “Yes,” he confessed, though he later regretted it.
Duliri wobbled, even spinning in the air as though he was dancing in joy. “You hear that, Hula? Arthur likes me more than you… he said it before. Now, he said it again. Hear that? hear that?”
Arthur only laughed while Hula had both his hands on his face, whispering. “How is this guy my alter? I refused to believe it. He’s more simple-minded than I thought.”
“I bet you’re just jealous…” Duliri retorted.
Hula sighed and shrugged as the staff tried to taunt him several more times. He decided to be the big guy and didn’t say another word. Besides, he knew both Duliri and Arthur.
Several more laughter and Arthur broke Duliri’s melodramatic charade, “Alright! Let’s get back to business.”
“Yes!” Duliri and Hula in unison.
Then Arthur closed the history book and glanced at Duliri. “Well, I think I’ll skip this Invasion of the Dorc Empire thing since I already have a general gist of it. I mean, this was about the Empire of the North, right? The combined forces of all kingdoms from Percepeer Continent that tried to conquer the southern countries, only to be stopped by the Allied forces of the Albin. Correct?”
“That’s right… However, I think it’s more accurate to say that the allied forces were only able to hold them off,” Duliri said. “Since even though the Empire couldn’t advance their invasion, Albin was also not able to push them back. In other words, the battle was a massive stalemate… and it went on for more than two years.”
“I have to agree in that regard, my lord.” Hula slowly nodded. “If not for the appearance of the Rainbow Dragon, Illiseo, that led to the Great Tragedy of Hansen, it’s safe to gauge that that war might have continued for a few more years. While many died at his rampage, I think so much more would have died if the rogue dragon didn’t interfere.”
Arthur nodded. “I understood that much, but I still don’t understand how was granny linked to it.”
“Well…” Duliri took a breath as though he needed it. “Let’s just say that Lord Allegia, her Ladyship, and two others are the negotiators.”
His forehead furrowed. “Negotiators?”
“Yes, because the real reason behind the stalemate was the lack of cooperation in Albin while the Dorc Empire was dealing with its own political conflict. In other words, neither the Empire nor the Allied forces took the war seriously. People needlessly died while the leaders were fighting among themselves.” Hula’s face suddenly turned dark. “Because in a war, Arthur, leaders make sure that they put the least amount of resources while getting the greatest amount of profit.”
“And as disgusting as it was,” Duliri added, his voice audibly annoyed. “Some kingdoms sent orphaned children to fight. And they only did it to meet the headcount they needed.”
The boy gulped, yet no saliva went down his throat. His mouth parched so much from the revelation. “So did granny and grandpa negotiate to stop that?” He asked with a hopeful look, his eyes waiting for an affirmative answer.
Silence answered his question for a while.
A few more breaths and Duliri spoke in a low voice, “They tried, yet they were too powerless to stop it. Remember Arthur that what we’re talking about were world leaders. Important figures, if you will. And at the time, Lady Katarina was a runaway noble and so is Lord Allegia. It means that they throw away everything for their freedom, which includes political power, wealth, influence, and title. That is to say, even with their efforts to end the war, they were nothing but common people with unheard voices.”
“And so, with the help of Lord Leomord, the two traveled the world in search of strong allies to push back the invading forces. And what they found was another ancient dragon, one of few beings that could stand toe to toe with Illiseo. I don’t know what they paid for it as the memory of your father on this part is pretty-“
“Wait!” Arthur interrupted. “You also have my father’s memories?”
Hula let out a humorless laugh. “Of course, my lord. Even though Duliri and I have different personalities, we are still of one soul and both originally resided one serpent staff. We share everything.”
“Well, that makes sense…”
“Anyways, as I was saying. Both Lord and Lady Allegia paid something of great value to the ancient rogue dragon for his service. However, when they arrived at the battlefield, Illiseo was already going on a rampage. And so, with the Lady and the lord’s help, the ancient dragon put a stop to it. Still, both sides of the war already suffered great casualties which forced the empire to retreat. Thus, the war ended in what we called ‘The Great Tragedy of Hansen.'”
Arthur thought for a moment, his face couldn’t be painted. “Hula said a while ago that if Illiseo didn’t appear, the war could have gone on for years. But if Illiseo didn’t appear, wouldn’t that mean that the Ancient Dragon that granny brought could stop the war himself?”
“It isn’t that simple, my lord. Even though an ancient dragon would be there, that would only force the empire to send an ancient dragon of their own to stop him. Again…” Hula paused. “In a war, you have to make sure that you put the least amount of resources while getting the greatest amount of profit. And because of internal conflict on both sides, that made it harder to end the fighting.”
“Besides, we indeed call them Allied Forces of Albin in history, but they’re nothing but a stack of Kingdoms trying to take advantage of one another. If you think about it, even if they end the war with the Empire in one fast sweep, then what follows? Any country that put more resources than what they would gain would be weakened. They’d be an easy target for another invasion to its neighboring countries. That’s basically what happened to Hansen since it’s the place where most of the war took place, it suffered the greatest damages. And now, it became a vassal state of Pendragon.”
Arthur didn’t speak for a moment, and then after a while, he began to laugh, a dry laugh echoing across the room. The two others only gave him a puzzled look as though they’re watching an insane person. “So to make it simpler, everyone is fighting but holding back, and anyone who fights with everything they’ve got will be beaten by everyone once they exhaust themselves.” He snorted, disgust marked his face. “In that case, how do you even know who to trust?”
“In the political sphere… You don’t trust anyone, my lord. You don’t,” he emphasized. “You should know that Lady Katarina learned that the hard way…”
“What do you mean?”
“It all started years after the war,” Hula began. “The reason why we are here…”