Chapter eighteen: The Council and the High Council
The next day was quiet. Gorlons death lay heavy on the minds of all. Drell had gone to the observatory to think. While inspecting one of the star charts a knock came to the door.
“Enter” the door opened slowly and a dwarfen knight entered and bowed.
“King Zorn wishes to see you” Drell sighed. What for this time? He shrugged
“Lead the way” the dwarf nodded, turned on his heel and stepped out, holding the door for Drell, who stepped lightly through and then followed the dwarf, through the opposite door.
The dwarf led Drell to a large gallery lined with portraits and tapestries of varying sizes. At the end of the gallery stood Zorn, wearing the same deep blue robes as when they had first met him. Beside him stood Valorn, looking vary formal and sullen, two qualities Drell had never seen in him before. Loroedor, Mina, Redtree and his knights were all gathered and waiting. Seeing Drell approach Zorn nodded a greeting and squared his shoulders.
“I have called a meeting of the Council and the High Council. I would like you all to accompany me so that I may call upon you if necessary. What say you?” after quickly surveying the others Drell nodded to his brother who turned to Zorn.
“Lead on” said Loroedor. Zorn nodded, turned and tapped twice upon the wall causing a hidden door to slide open. Beyond the door was a flight of steep, and rather narrow widening stairs that led down.
“Now mind your step. These old stairs are solid enough but their terribly slick and this shaft is so narrow that one false step and… well come on” without another word Zorn began the descent and was swallowed by the darkness of the shaft. Valorn followed him then Loroedor. As Drell came to the top of the stair he froze suddenly, unable to move. Staring into the dark he began to feel dizzy, the walls of the shaft expanded and contracted. The muscles in his legs began to twitch, his mouth became dry and the sound of his own hartbeat pounded in his ears.
“Drell? What’s wrong?” Mina came up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Loroedor had stopped on the stairs and was now looking up at him. Drell began to sweat, he found him self unable to answer, for suddenly there was vary little air. Drell knew this feeling. He knew it from long ago and thought he had been rid of it, apparently not. Loroedor came back up to the top step.
“What’s the matter?” Drell licked his bloodless lips.
“I… I don’t” Drell looked over his shoulder at the others. Loroedor nodded his understanding.
“Go on the lot of you. We’ll be along shortly”
“But” said Mina.
“Mina its alright just go” but she did not move and neither did the Knights.
“Are you all deaf or something? I said go,” Loroedor`s face was stern. Redtree put a hand gently on Minas arm and led her down with his Knights slowly following. Once the older elf could no longer hear their footsteps he turned back to Drell.
“I thought you had gotten over it” he sighed. Drell nodded
“So did I” Loroedor half turned and set his foot upon the next step.
“It’s all in your head Drell and you know it. The walls aren’t going anywhere” Drell nodded.
“Yes I know but there’s no air. What if I fall?”
“There is plenty of air and if you do fall you know I wont let you go far” Drell remained where he was. Zorns voice echoed up the shaft.
“What’s going on up there? We don’t have all day” Loroedor looked up at Drell.
“Come on the others are waiting” Drell remained still a moment, took several deep breaths and began slowly down.
“What in the name of the abyss took you so long?” quarried Zorn once the two elves reached the bottom. Drell hung his head and made to answer, Loroedor’s hand clamped onto his shoulder.
“Sudden dizzy spell your highness. I’ve been prone to them lately. Drell was helping me. It wont happen again I swear” Zorn stroked his beard.
“It had better not” he turned and began to lead them down a wide ornately carved tunnel.
“Thank you” whispered Drell, keeping a few steps behind the others.
“What are brothers for?” Loroedor smiled. The ornate tunnel led onto a circular alcove, wide enough to support a quarter of the dwarfen army. A casem separated the alcove from a railed ledge with two rows of chairs, one slightly taller than the other. There were twelve chairs in all, eight for the members of the Council and four for the members of the High Council. The eight Councilmen were all high-ranking noblemen. The members of the High Council were those who had served upon the Council for over one hundred years. As Zorn approached all members rose to greet him. Zorn nodded and bade them sit. One remained standing, an elderly dwarf of Zorns age with a fine well trimmed white beard, one of the High Council.
“Greetings to you your highness, it pleases me to see that you are well. But may I ask why you have called this meeting so suddenly and why you saw fit to allow them here” his gaze settled on Drell and the others.
“I allowed them here Itherron because of what they sacrificed to bring the stone back and what they further sacrificed to ensure it stayed here. I called this meeting because there is an issue that cannot and will not wait and I will not be delayed by your bothersome questions” a tension filled the air as the Chief High Council suppressed a scowl.
“What is this issue?” Itherron said at last, taking his seat.
“With the resent death of my youngest and last true son I am left with no heir to the throne I will one day leave vacant. My family, the Twin Hammers, have been in possession of the crown for seven hundered years now. If it were to end with me who would take it? The Mountaintamers, the Ironforgers, the Wells, none of them are strong enough. The Mountain Kingdom would become divided again and don’t try to pretend it wouldn’t. I will not allow that to happen and so I ask that you stand in support of my decision to declare Valorn as my blood and heir” the cavern erupted in angry shouts as all eight Council men jumped to their feet in protest.
“Enough!” bellowed Itherron, effectively silencing all eight Councilmen and glaring at them until they took their seats.
“Your highness with all due respect how can you ask us to support such madness?”
“Yes madness. If you remember we said the same thing all those years ago when you first came to us about adopting the boy. We told you that the people would never accept him, that he would be dead with in days”
“You were wrong then. Why would you not be wrong now?”
“Because this is different”
“Why? Why is it different?”
“When you adopted Valorn, Gorlon your true son and heir was still alive, so there was no chance of him ever being able to take the throne. He was and still is prince in name only. I had thought the people would not accept him but they did, much to my surprise. But they will not accept this. Regardless of whether or not they like or dislike elves they would never allow one to sit upon a dwarfen throne even if it was by your order” Zorn clenched his fists.
“So you would rather my family line die it that it?” the head of the High Council shook his head.
“There is another way. One you have always known of but have ignored” said Itherron. Zorn bowed his head and was silent for a while. He sighed and looked up again.
“Itherron you and I have been friends since childhood. We went to school together. We played together, laughed, and cried together. When we came of age we fought wars together. When you married I was at your side and when I married Jasla you did the same for me. When my sons were born you were with me, as you were when Jasla died. Do you remember what I said to you on that day?” Itherron did not respond, Zorn went on, “I told you that I would never take another for I could never love anyone as much as I loved her, and that it would be a sin against her memory if I did. I swore it, I have never gone back on it and I never will” awed silence filled the cavern, none knowing what to say.
“I see. Well since he is the subject of this conversation why don’t we ask Valorn what he thinks of this” Itherron looked to the elfin dwarf prince,“Well boy, what have you to say?” all went quiet again as all waited for Valorns answer.
“It matters not what I want. If my father wishes this of me I will do it gladly”
“By all heavens boy do you have no mind of your own? Just because Zorn is king does not mean he has absolute and final say over your life. If you do not agree with him then say so,” replied Itherron impatiently. Valorn stood a moment, not knowing how to reply. When at last he faced them again there was a pride suffused in his face that none had ever seen before.
“Grand and noble sirs I do not remember my true father but I know that I am an elf, I have never pretended not to be. King Zorn has been a good man and father to me so whatever he asks of me I shall do it. Not because I am a dog with no will or wants of my own but because I am grateful to him. If he thinks I would be a fit king I have no reason to doubt him, even though I doubt myself” Zorn smiled at this and Valorn placed a hand upon his shoulder. The eyes of the Chief of the High Council shifted to the others.
“Well do any of you have something to say about this?” a few moments passed then Loroedor stepped forward.
“Grand and noble sirs I too am an elf and so know little of dwarfen politics but I do know this, that in times of need it is the duty of the people to trust their King. True Valorn is young and at present unfit to rule but with the right guidance and time I believe he could become a good King. King Zorn sees it, as do I. Can you not see it also?” Itherron sniffed and shifted his gaze again.
“I believe that my brother said all that was needed to be said,” replied Drell as he walked to stand next to his brother.
“Vary well then. We will leave now and consider all of this” all members of the Council and High Council rose and walked silently out.
“Now what?” quarried one of the knights.
“Now we wait,” replied Zorn without turning. Uncounted hours passed as the group waited for the council’s decision. Young dwarfen serving boys hurried in and out with food and drink and even supplied conversation when asked upon for it. When the Councilmen returned all rose from where they had sat, eager to hear their verdict. Itherron surveyed the room then set his gaze on Zorn.
“What you have said is true your highness. Your family has ruled here for centuries and it would be a shame to see it end with you. So, though none of us believe for an instant that the people will accept the idea, we will nevertheless stand at your side in support of it. Our founders put their trust in your ancestor Boremear because they knew him to be a great leader and so we put our trust in you, do not disappoint us old friend” a small smile graced the old dwarfs face. Zorn returned it and nodded.
“Thank you Itherron” his gaze shifted to each of them. “Thank you all”
“When to do you plan to announce this?”
“Tonight if possible” a murmur went throughout the Council but Itherron stayed it.
“Vary well. Go, send your heralds and we shall meet you at High Rock” Zorn bowed, as did the others, then turned and departed from the council chamber.