Chapter 3 - A Surprise Proposal
As the dark carriage came to a sudden halt, several footmen moved in quickly to open the carriage door, bowing their heads with both fear and respect as several darkly-dressed figures emerged from within, one by one.
The first was the tall and muscular General Shasharan with his long black braided hair. He wore a strange black and golden armour and held his helmet underneath one arm as he exited the carriage and stood to the side to wait. The next to exit the carriage was the tattoo-covered warrior and trusted advisor, Zaar. He wore black clothing, in a style King Greggory had not yet seen before. His face was covered in strange black tattoos, including one around either of his two eyes; each appearing to glow a bright fluro green as he looked around.
Finally, the last figure to exit the carriage was the most intimidating of all and the one King Greggory immediately recognised to be the Warlord King Draxus himself. Not only was he incredibly tall, at least six foot five, but he looked extremely well built as well; even with the unique black and gold armoured clothing he wore over his body.
For some unknown reason, he wore a large frightening helmet with twisted horns and spikes, which sat over his head and carried a terrifying expression on it. Black armoured gloves covered both of his hands and a pair of large black and gold boots protected his feet as he walked along slowly. He appeared to carry a long sword which was sheathed and attached to a large golden belt sitting around his waist. And finally, the most eye-catching part of his ensemble; his long black cloak. But this was unlike any other mere cloak, this one appeared to be made up of something with the consistency of thick, black smoke! It was not material that one could touch with their hand, but instead a magical piece of clothing that gave the wearer added protection, much stronger than his armour was! The cloak appeared to shift in various directions, yet still remaining behind his back like a real cloak would; it truly was a mesmerising sight to behold as he walked along confidently down the path leading up towards the castle’s entrance.
This was the most nervous King Greggory had been in a very long time and he needed to remain as calm and in control as possible in order for his plan to work. Taking one last deep breath, he forced himself to head down to the main entrance, to greet his guest face to face.
After being escorted from the main entrance inside the castle, King Draxus and his men stood waiting for their host to arrive. Draxus was not a patient man and did not like to be kept waiting; a fact that King Greggory should have paid attention to in this case perhaps.
A voice suddenly called for their attention as the elderly ruler of Rykiss stepped out into the sunlight to meet his guests.
“The warmest of welcomes to you, King Draxus! I trust you had a pleasant journey?”
His welcoming attitude was quickly rebuffed as the Warlord King turned and spoke to his General with whispered words. Apparently his General would be his voice for the time being.
“My Master asks why you had him waiting here for so long.” General Shasharan enquired sternly, his left brow raised in intrigue.
King Greggory’s smile dissolved quickly as he realised his unintentional offence.
“Er... I do apologise, King Draxus.” he spoke with a bowed head. “Please understand that I did not intend to cause you any form of distress by my actions. As you can see, my servants have worked very hard to ensure that your stay here is as comfortable as possible. If you require anything at all, please do not hesitate to ask.”
Draxus did not reply, nor did he move.
He simply stood staring back at the elderly man before him, as if he were beneath him.
King Greggory was concerned; this would be more difficult than he thought!
“Shall we begin negotiations then?” the General ushered, with a wave of his hand.
“Yes, of course. Please, right his way.” King Greggory explained.
With a clap of his hands, several of his servants began to lead their guests from the courtyard up a small flight of stairs and into a secluded room nearby for their discussion.
Following along behind his men, King Draxus had a lot on his mind but nothing could prepare him for what was about to happen; for what he was about to experience.
With a slow turn of his head his entire world suddenly changed; there she was, the most stunning creature he had ever laid eyes upon. The only woman who had managed to successfully still his beating heart, of her pure beauty and innocence alone. Time seemed to slow down to a crawl as he stood staring at the radiance of this woman before him. She sat less than a few metres away from him on a stone seat completely surrounded by hundreds of bright flowers and completely oblivious to his gaze. She appeared to be taking in the sights and smells of her surroundings and the crimson colour of the roses surrounding her had made her golden blonde hair seem to catch fire in the morning sunlight. It was a sight he had certainly not predicted that he would gaze upon during his visit to Rykiss, but one that he welcomed fondly. She was absolutely stunning... such purity, poise and grace. She was perfect and in that very moment, Draxus had already decided... she would be his, not matter the cost!
At that exact moment King Greggory followed his guest’s gaze and his eyes widened in terror as he noticed what Draxus was staring at; his daughter sitting amongst the flowers. His heart sank and he swallowed a lump in his dry throat. How dare she defy his command and leave her room! He had even doubled the guards at her door to prevent this from happening! She was putting herself in serious danger being down here during this negotiation, not that she had been made aware of it prior to now.
Deciding he needed to do something to lure his guest away from his innocent daughter, King Greggory spoke in a friendly manner.
“Your Highness, are you coming?” his voice was shaky.
As the tyrant known as the Dragon King finally spoke, Greggory felt a chill running up the base of his spine.
“The girl over there in the garden...” Draxus spoke softly from beneath his helmet, never once breaking his gaze over the Princess. His voice was deep and yet smooth as he spoke. “Who is she?”
Greggory forced a smile.
“Ah, I see you’ve noticed my daughter, Lillian.” Greggory commented warily.
“Your daughter...” Draxus once again spoke from beneath his helmet. “...how enchanting.”
“Yes, she gets all of her looks from her mother I’m afraid. But don’t let that fool you, she’s a fiery one, make no mistake about that!” Greggory continued with a chuckle, trying to lighten the conversation.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, she certainly keeps us on our toes... more often than I’d like I’m afraid.”
King Greggory paused for a moment, watching the mighty and infamous Warlord King standing before him, his gaze clearly plastered upon his only child and Greggory started to become slightly nervous for a moment. Had he failed to protect her?
Clearing his throat, King Greggory spoke quickly in an effort to break Draxus’ gaze.
“Well, if you would please come and take a seat, we can begin our intended negotiations.” he spoke gesturing with his other outstretched arm towards the large oak table just inside of the room they were about to enter.
From beneath the horned helmet, Draxus’ amber eyes darted from the beautiful sight before him, back toward the older man who was still waiting for him with a kind smile. As Draxus began to make his way towards his host and then toward the table, he turned his head one last time to catch sight of her before disappearing for what would be tense discussions between two rulers. His view only broken as a pair of wooden doors were closed with a ‘thud’ behind them by two guards.
Dignitaries and members of the King Draxus’ Royal Escort, including his General and Zaar were seated quickly around the table, with both Kings carefully seated at either end. As soon as King Draxus was seated and ready, the negotiations begun.
King Greggory stood and began to speak.
“I would like to say a fond welcome to you, King Draxus, and to thank you for agreeing to come and meet with us regarding the future of our two fair Kingdoms. I know it must have been a long ride and I’m sure you’re all in need of some rest, so let’s see if we can sort this all out as quickly as possible, hmm?”
A voice chimed in from across the table.
“King Greggory, my master is not a patient man. We were called here to come to an arrangement, regarding the safety of your Kingdom, as I believe.” General Shasharan announced. “My master was informed that you had a bounty to offer in exchange for peace between our Kingdoms.”
King Draxus sat silently; his gloved hands resting casually upon the armrests on either side of his chair as his General continued to speak on his behalf.
“Please tell us what you have to offer in exchange for keeping the peace with the Kingdom of Rykiss.”
King Greggory could feel his heart racing; he had never been spoken to like this, nor had he felt as threatened as he did as this very moment. He knew these negotiations, as he liked to think of them, would be quite difficult but peace was his primary goal and ensuring his people would remain safe from the Warlord King’s forces in the foreseeable future was necessary! Though Greggory had heard several rumours throughout neighbouring Kingdoms, he still wasn’t sure what sort of a man King Draxus was, but he hoped they could come to some sort of understanding eventually. One King to another.
“Yes, of course.” Greggory forced a smile and sat back down in his chair.
Raising his hand, he signalled for one of his servants to step forward and deliver the parchment with the current offer he had in mind to his guest.
As the servant came close enough to try and hand it to King Draxus, he was suddenly startled and gasped as several of Draxus’ men moved to unsheathe their swords; their faces painted with intense warning. It was apparent that no one would be allowed anywhere near the Warlord King and the message was made loud and clear to everyone in the room at that moment.
Instead General Shasharan held out his gloved hand, grinning back at the servant as he was instead handed the rolled up parchment; the frightened servant quickly scuffling away once more and out of sight immediately afterwards.
Glancing down at the parchment as he unrolled it with his hands, the General took a moment to read over what it pertained, then turning his head to make eye contact with his King to break the unfortunate news. He already knew that King Draxus would not be happy with this offer.
“Master...” Shasharan spoke, then leaning in towards his King, who in turn leaned toward his General in order to hear him.
General Shasharan whispered something to King Draxus for a moment and from across the table, King Greggory watched with a keen interest, waiting for a reaction; any kind of reaction to reveal whether their negotiations would be successful or not. Unfortunately, King Draxus would not give him the satisfaction of a reaction, especially with the helmet covering his face. Instead, the Warlord King whispered something back to his General, looking his host King Greggory in the eye as he did so.
When the two had finished, General Shasharan looked to their host and took a deep breath into his lungs; this would not be easy!
“My Master has informed me that at this time he will not be accepting your offer of land and riches, as presented to him.” The General began to explain, sternly.
Hearing this, King Greggory exhaled deeply as his heart sank and his heart thudded over and over within his chest. He could feel sweat beginning to form upon his brow as he fought to contain the obvious panic which was quickly building up within him. Their entire plan had rested solely upon coming to an agreement here and now and this was concerning, not just for the King, but for his people. Greggory was well aware that the Warlord King sitting opposite him was far more dangerous and his army much greater than theirs. He as King would be foolish to make an enemy of such a powerful ruler; he needed to find something that interested King Draxus and fast!
“King Draxus, surely we can come to some kind of understanding. I’m sure there is something in my possession that may interest-”
Draxus’ voice broke through mid-sentence, causing Greggory to pause with a horrified expression painted across his now pale face.
If he had felt horrible just before, King Greggory felt even worse upon hearing those two simple words. Had he heard his guest correctly just now? He paused, seeming slightly stunned by the proposed idea which had caused the entire room to silence in both shock and concern.
“My... my daughter?” he asked, chuckling sarcastically. “I don’t understand.”
A pause of silence filled the room for a few seconds before Draxus spoke again.
“It’s quite simple. I will ensure that your Kingdom remains under my protection and is well compensated for the foreseeable future, as one of my fellow allies...” King Draxus explained, seemingly smoothly and without emotion. “...and in return, you gift me your daughter.”