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35: A Promise Fulfilled

Renn, 1180

I sat in my favorite chair, waiting for the meeting to begin. The others hadn’t arrived yet, but as they were guests in my manor, I couldn’t leave them waiting, so I had arrived earlier than our agreed time out of politeness. Behind me to my right, was my own show of power. He served as my bodyguard, because even though I trusted my guests, I wasn’t stupid. An assassination attempt could come from anywhere, and I couldn’t be too careful. My bodyguard was visibly armed to remind my guests who was in charge. I waited, picking my teeth with the minuscule dagger that I kept in a pocket on my sleeve.

My bodyguard shuffled his feet, his fidgeting drawing my eye. I wondered if he was nervous. It would be his first official meeting here, after all. Spenser had been a member for a long time now, having joined as a young teenager when I’d first become leader. I’d never used him in this capacity before, in any case. This was very official business. Anything said here was highly confidential.

That I permitted him to attend spoke volumes, and if he did well in this today, then I would consider promoting him to a higher office. I’d noticed he was skilled with numbers and organization. Perhaps he could be a record keeper. The Naga certainly had a need for one. Many of our businesses’ accounting were painfully haphazard, and some of them had no records at all.

The man I had posted outside the room opened the door slightly to announce my guest’s arrival before they entered.

“Pellia Raghas, King Dieter Kampstaff and his son are here, Raven,” said the door man.

“Send them in, please,” I said authoritatively, eager to begin.

They had requested this meeting, and though I had an idea, they hadn’t shared an exact agenda. I supposed that was for the best. Only those who needed to know would be here to witness it.

The door opened wider this time to allow for my guests to enter, flanked by two bodyguards each. Pellia brushed forward in front of Dieter, bowed deeply to greet me, and then stood on the far side of the table. Dieter entered in the same manner, although he situated his guards on the other side of the table. Dieter’s son, the prince, shadowed his father’s every move.

I nodded in greeting to all of them and gestured that they should sit. I brushed my long blonde hair away from my face and behind my shoulders, careful not to wipe off any of my face paint that I had carefully applied. I leaned forward; elbows propped on the table in front of me.

“What brings you here, my friends?” I asked, genuinely pleased to see them, but eager to get down to business.

Over the few years I’d been leading this group, these two have been close allies of mine. Pellia Raghas, the figurehead of the rebellion, had become a close colleague with our numerous meetings in secret. Dieter Kampstaff, the King of Dobridland, was more of an acquaintance to me, but he did have my respect and it appeared that I had his too. At least, he had always treated me accordingly.

“We have come to request something of you,” said Pellia officially. “Or rather, of one of your colleagues.”

I raised my eyebrows, silently asking her to elaborate.

“Dean Red, I believe he is called?” Pellia said, tapping her lips lightly with an extended index finger. She stood, slapping her hands flat on the table in front her. “We have a deal concerning him. We’ve held up our end, and now, it is time to collect.”

“I’m sure he will cooperate as much as he’s able,” I said carefully. “What do you require of him?”

“Several years ago, as you know, we made an alliance with Kane Marsa.”

I nodded in agreement.

“We agreed that the Naga gang would not only assist in funding the rebellion, but would also give us what we desire most,” she said, choosing her words carefully. “Which, is the rightful heir to the throne.” She paused to examine my expression. “Dayne Cerul, or as he’s re-named himself, Dean Red.”

“Right, I recall,” I said, sighing. The time had finally come for Dean to fulfill the promise he made because of me. “And we have held up our promise to honor my predecessor’s alliance. We’ve done all that you ask.”

“As you have,” she allowed, emphasizing her words with her hands. She settled back down into her seat, clasping her fingers together in anticipation. “Now, we believe it is time for action. The groundwork has been laid. Now, it is time we claim our figurehead and announce that the prince is alive.”

“Spenser,” I waved.

A rustle of motion later, and he was standing at my shoulder.

“Bring Dean here, if you please,” I ordered of him.

“Yes, Raven,” he said meekly, and quickly left the room in search of Dean.

“Dean – Dayne – will be here shortly,” I said, fingers tented together in front of me. “Shall we continue?”

Dieter’s voice rang out proudly within the small group. “We have agreed to supply you with an impressive army,” he bragged, quite pleased with his role. “At your command, I will begin to smuggle them in small groups at a time, so as to not cause alarm to the Usurper.”

“Excellent,” I said. “We are eternally grateful to Dobridland for providing your support. We couldn’t do this without you.”

Dieter nodded in approval, a wordless acceptance of my praise and acknowledgement.

“And Pellia, you’ve grown the rebel forces in only a few short years, fighting against the Usurper’s propaganda.”

“The citizens are with us,” Pellia said sagely, “as we are the citizens.”

I stood to face them. “This is a cause I believe in,” I said, my words ringing with truth and commitment, “and we will fight to restore the throne’s rightful heir.”

I would do my very best to make sure that we would win this battle to come. If it was within my power, I would do anything to see Dean successful. Pellia nodded, Dieter as well, and I settled back into my seat. Our proclamations made, a quiet and awkward silence fell over us. I didn’t mind it, though. Why bother filling the air with useless words?

The lull in the conversation was filled by a gentle knock at the door, likely from the man stationed outside. Like before, he cracked it open and announced Dean’s arrival. I nodded at the guard, and he swung the door open wide so that Dean could walk through. Spenser followed behind, closed the door after them, and remained leaned against the far wall near the exit. I appreciated his prompt return and made a mental note to reward Spenser with the promotion.

Dean walked tall, chin held high, and strode to my side.

Remaining standing, he addressed us all. “I understand it is time for me to uphold my promise,” he said, gazing at Pellia and Dieter.

They simply stared at him, in awe.

He smiled at their adoration. “I am here, and I am willing to fight by your side for my crown.”

I couldn’t help but smile at this regal display. It seemed odd, him playing this kingly role. I’d only known him as a street thief and a criminal, not a nobleman. But it suited him, I thought. He would do well.

Dieter surprised me by suddenly leaping from his chair and kneeling on the ground. His son looked surprised as well, as it is no small thing for a King to do so to another. Dieter seemed overcome with emotion seeing Dean in the flesh.

“You look just like your father,” Dieter smiled, looking upon Dean with an expression a father might wear when gazing at his child. “Though a King of my own country, I pledge my sword to you, Dayne Cerul,” he said, his voice full of emotion. “My army will follow you as it does me.”

In response to this, Dean nodded with a smile and indicated he rise. Dieter did so, his head bowed in respect.

“I accept your fealty, King Dieter,” Dean replied. “May it bring us peace and victory.”

Pellia was next to kneel, though instead of practically falling on the floor as Dieter had, she deliberately placed herself just so next to her chair. Her right knee on the ground, the other propped up, she looked up at Dean.

“I pledge my service to you, your grace,” she said, respect and awe spilling from her words. “My people – our people – will support you.”

Once more, he gestured she should rise, just as he did to King Dieter.

“I accept your fealty, Madame Pellia.” He paused, considering what to say next. “May we bring the people back their country.”

She smiled widely at this, extremely pleased. Witnessing all of this, I wondered if I should pledge as well. Though Dean knew I would follow him to the ends of the earth as his best friend, perhaps it would be beneficial for the others to see this too. I decided to stand up slowly, pushing my chair back from the table, making sure to dramatically drag the legs on the floor.

I kept eye contact with Dean, and tenderly knelt into a low lunge on the floor. He smiled at me, and as somebody who had known him for years, I could see that he was holding back laughter. I struggled to keep a straight face. He wouldn’t see me kneeling like this ever, to anyone else. I was sure he would tease me about it later. The Raven didn’t kneel. But here she was, kneeling for him.

“The Naga pledge their knowledge, their resources, and their numbers to your cause, your grace.” Still staring into his eyes, I continued. “We will follow you unto the ends of the earth.”

The half-smile still playing at his lips, threatening to ruin my stoic visage, he waved his hands to allow me to rise.

“I accept your fealty, Raven of the Naga,” he said, his voice choked. Probably he was still trying not to chuckle in such a serious and dramatic moment. “May it bring the world peace and victory.”

He turned to look at all of us as I returned to my seat quietly. “I want nothing but peace for us all. I hope that our combined efforts will bring us this result. Upon my success, each of you will be rewarded in kind, with alliances and friendship from me. In addition to, of course, the return of the Kingdom to its former glory.”

“Long reign the Cerul,” Pellia said, toasting without a glass.

I exchanged a glance with Dean, who shrugged almost without detection.

“Long reign the Cerul,” the rest of us said in unison. I hoped more than anything that sentence would ring true.

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