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48: Strategy

Dean, 1182

I sat at the head of the table, a wooden work of art. It was polished smooth, a deep mahogany adorned with extravagant carvings along the legs and the sides. It was magnificent. The chairs matched; each a sturdy mahogany etched with beautiful intricate designs to complement the table. Plush cushions of alternating red and blue sat on top of the chairs that lined the table, although mine was a checkered version with a much higher back, the King’s chair. The room was of high ceilings, cold marble floor, and covered in historical tapestries. This room, the royal strategy room, also had a global map on a particularly artistic tapestry that hung across the entire wall, directly in my line of sight if I sat in my designated chair. My fingers traced a pattern absentmindedly on the armrest, brushing the elaborate artwork as I listened to my new advisors tell me the status of my Kingdom.

“...what do you think, King Dayne?” asked my financial advisor, who had once been a treasurer from the Naga gang, a capable man.

“I knew this would be difficult, but this is delicate. Now that the Ryne is its own Kingdom, I have Thiol to contend with.”

My advisors and I had been discussing, for quite some time now, the best way to proceed as a new – well, old – country. Twenty-five years as a united Kingdom was plenty of time for things to become complicated.

“We should extinguish their army, and exact revenge!” shouted an overzealous ex-Naga advisor.

“No, I’ve said this already. We don’t have the forces or the funds. We must be diplomatic,” I sighed.

Some of these people were simply bloodthirsty. I had to be careful – these would be my first few acts as King, which would set the tone for my entire rule. Hopefully, that rule would be a long time, Goddess-willing. I had no taste for war just now. All I wanted was to give peace to the people and restore the Rynish culture to its former glory.

“They’re hurting too, my liege,” said a different advisor. This one was much calmer, which was perhaps more dangerous. “Being separated means they’ve lost the original Rynish citizens that made up a portion of their army. They only have their Thiol soldiers, now. And, Zante’s army has been scattered across the globe for years. They’ll never reorganize.”

I listened carefully to his words, wary of his intentions.

“We will offer diplomacy first,” I reasoned. “Then, if they refuse, we have reason to vanquish them without mercy,” I decreed. I was not about to bend to the will of my advisors, though I will listen to all they have to say.

“What do you suggest, your grace?” he replied, politely.

I thought for a moment, considering my options. “Offer them Princess Nya. She is the sole heir of the Urion. Surely, they’ll want their princess.”

As she was born the same year that Zante conquered the Ryne, it wasn’t like I was returning her, but it was true that she was the Thiolish heir.

“And if they do not agree?”

“We make this offer on the condition that upon her return, Thiol and Ryne observe a truce. In five years, the truce may expire, and we may consider becoming allies.”

Hopefully, five years was enough for us to establish ourselves once more and build enough of a trust between Thiol and the Ryne. I had no ill will towards Nya; in fact, I owe her my life. This was my way of repaying her for that debt. I thought of her sitting in the cell and felt a twinge of guilt. Perhaps I should’ve allowed her a better prison.

My generals and advisers who sat around the table nodded in agreement, exchanging glances between themselves and muttering assent. Thankful that this bit of business would shortly be taken care of, I straightened in my chair.

“Ready the pigeon,” I commanded.

A servant jumped up to obey my command. We would send the message to Thiol and await their response. I succinctly and concisely detailed the demand for a truce and its conditions on a thin slice of heavy parchment, which I rolled neatly into a small scroll able to be tied onto a carrier pigeon’s foot. Securing the scroll with hot wax, I pressed the Rynish coat of arms to seal the letter. Now, the Thiolish noblemen could have no doubt who sent the letter. There was a part of me that wished I could share my success with Renn. Despite my efforts, my thoughts also jumped to Larke. I wondered what she would think of my decision to send Nya to Thiol. Would she find it wise?

“Send this to the ruling council of Thiol. When they respond, alert me immediately.” I sat back in my chair, satisfied with the events.

Hopefully, peace between our countries could be possible. I just wanted a fresh start. After everything that happened, I allowed myself to feel optimistic.

A servant rushed in, scanned the room frantically, his gaze finally landing on me.

“Your grace! You must come with me immediately!”

“What?” I said, taken aback.

“My liege, I apologize for the intrusion, but Healer Bron is asking for you,” he panted. “He’s had an idea.”

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