The Silent Witness (Published)

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Seeing the procession through the streets of Marpøøn Gantal, Francin, Morgan, Jydan, Fenn, and Sarita, were as excited as everyone else in the city. The procession line seemed to never end and Sarita, hand in hand with Fenn, was thrilled to see the beauty and majesty of the horses that strode through the main street towards the palace. She saw Prince Daris and blushed. He truly was as handsome as Jydan mentioned earlier that day. The carts and wagons carrying gifts seemed to never end and the soldiers who accompanied their king and prince marched beside them, making sure no one came too close to the merchandise.

“It’s a pity father couldn’t come and see!” Morgan exclaimed, never once taking her eyes off the entourage.

“Unfortunately your father has more concerning matters on his mind than a wedding,” Francin replied with a troubled look. She remembered her husband’s face when he received the news of Aralin’s death, the hanging of the remaining council members and the sacking of Støne Fønt.

Antonin was bitter and angry all the time and Morgan sulked for days that her future studies came to a sudden end. She flew into a rage, exclaiming that all her hard work had been for nothing, all thanks to a selfish king. It sparked a heated argument between father and daughter: Morgan - for the abrupt end of her studies - and Antonin, who lost his closest and dearest friend in an unnecessary battle. Morgan was distressed at the news of Aralin’s death. She loved the man dearly and cried many nights on Sarita’s shoulders, but she couldn’t deny how unhappy she was with where this predicament had placed her.

The herald who announced that a royal wedding would take place within the following month lifted Morgan’s spirits for the first time since receiving the devastating news about Aralin and the fall of Støne Fønt. The women were all excited to see neighbouring dignitaries arriving nearly every day, but this day was special. A monarch from the west came to their city!

Francin leaned closer to Jydan and quietly asked her, “Do you think Alkan will come?” Jydan gave her sister-in-law a worried look. She was trying to wrap her mind around everything that has happened and wondered if the parents of the royal couple would even consider asking Alkan.

“I assume they’d invite him,” came her reply. “It would be rude not to and since we now have King Hatmin here,” nodding towards Hatmin and Daris, “I think it was done out of necessity.”

Jydan looked at the young king and his brother, then back at Francin.

“Does my brother know?”

Francin winced. “No. That king’s name is forbidden to be spoken of in our house.”

News of the sacking of Støne Fønt quickly spread across Barathorn and the atrocities of what Alkan had brought upon those who opposed him. Many who lived in villages and towns flocked towards nearby cities, as the cities themselves had begun strengthening their walls and defences. They were preparing for any sort of attack, imagined or otherwise.

The people in western Barathorn looked more to King Hatmin than King Hepharis for help. The latter was known to be indecisive and due to his inability to act, caused many people to put their trust and faith in King Hatmin instead. Hepharis’s only reply to the rise in the brutality of King Alkan was to have his son marry a foreign princess. The north and south waged wars against each other for thousands of years - before the rise of kingdoms - with nothing concrete to show for it. The only person who benefitted from all those years of carnage was Verontó, who would constantly watch long ago battles in his cabinets strewn across his palace wing, the Hall of Heroes.

Many petitions were drawn up and sent to King Gunner and Queen Shafis to retaliate against Alkan, but both king and queen of Marpøøn Gantal were too preoccupied with their daughter’s wedding to have to still worry about the new king in the south, at least not yet.

Although it was never far from her mind, Shafis’s spies did exceptionally well in keeping her informed of Alkan’s every movement. She had known Alkan would travel by land to her daughter’s wedding long before her husband received the official message. She also suspected (correctly) the truth behind his passing through Sajanell Døørs. She didn’t have to be creative to know the reason why. But the wedding was getting close and the messages came to a sudden stop. She had not received any reports from her three spies, Tidus, Oren, and Caden in over a week and the constant sleepless nights were now catching up to her.

She found herself staring out the window, lost in thought, more often than necessary and Isarin began to worry. Shafis was always in high spirits and the heart of the kingdom, and indeed, the north itself, but now she kept herself to herself and seldom went out of the palace.

“Queen Shafis’s physicians have been called in and were instructed to stay in the palace at all times until after the wedding,” Jydan said.

Francin’s troubled look returned. “Why?”

“I’m not entirely sure. All I know is that they have taken up residence in the west wing of the palace and that they are to accompany her to Rake Turf for the second part of the wedding.”

Jydan worked as a copyist for Emila Ronson, the palace’s main administrator. Emila had many scribes under her, but she found Jydan’s handwriting to be ’worthy of royalty’ and was often chosen to copy laws, letters, and other important documents that needed to be either circulated within the kingdom or distributed abroad.

Jydan did not, however, have the ears of the inner circle, so hearing news if Alkan was invited to the wedding or what Shafis’s spies had uncovered, she couldn’t say. Emila was fiercely loyal to her queen and Jydan had the pleasure of meeting the beloved queen not long after she was interviewed by Emila, who gave samples of her handwriting to Queen Shafis, who in return told Emila to “hire this talented young lady immediately.

“What could be so bad that the physicians have to stay with the queen?” wondered Francin.

Jydan shrugged. “Maybe it’s from all the stress and worries about the wedding and of course, the threat in the south,” she replied. “Also, it’s no easy task running a kingdom and trying to keep the peace.” continued Jydan.

“Shafis had taken on many responsibilities to aid her husband and he’s never taken her for granted. But now, at her age, I think it’s becoming a bit too much. Even for a person who was born with the skills to rule a kingdom.” Francin stood silent, lost in thought. She believed Shafis was worried about Alkan and all he stood for, which was the opposite of what Shafis and Gunner believed. A wave of new affection for the queen washed over her. Francin’s thoughts were disrupted when there was a great clutter of people running frantically forward when the last carriage entered through the gates towards the palace.

King Hatmin had his men throw coins into the crowd and everyone cheered. Francin and Jydan were pushed vigorously by those standing behind them so that they could get to the front and pick up as many coins as possible.

Francin looked up and saw King Gunner stiffen at this gesture and then looked at Shafis. She saw the queen reaching out to hold her husband’s arm.

No doubt keeping him from saying something to Hatmin he’ll later regret,” thought Francin. Before the great gates closed, Hatmin raised his hands towards the citizens of Marpøøn Gantal, and the people applauded enthusiastically, with Hepharis seeming to want to push Hatmin down the stairs and be done with him.

* * * * *

The Senate of Sajanell Døørs were less than pleased when a messenger arrived announcing the arrival of King Alkan Lothbert at their city gates. They had heard reports that Alkan would be taking the northern route to Marpøøn Gantal and there was no denying his stop would be right outside their doors.

He came with a great host, but the Senate was relieved to see it wasn’t an army, only those who made up Alkan’s court. The Senate had fifty members, of which many came from Fate Ørn and all of them studied politics, philosophy, law, and anthropology (the requirements meant for such a position, though many studied other interesting subjects, medicine, amongst other appealing topics) through the Academy in Støne Fønt.

The city of Sajanell Døørs was the mirror image of Fate Ørn, where justice systems and laws were first implemented and spread across Barathorn thousands of years ago. Even though it was one of the most important cities with great seats of power, Sajanell Døørs had finally received its great reputation through hard work, dedication, and devotion; listening to the mass and taking their disputes seriously.

All the Evertheenians were their patron gods as the Senate stated in a unanimous vote that it would be in the interest of the citizens to have all the Evertheenians honoured, instead of choosing one to be their patron god. They felt it would insult the other gods if one was chosen above them all. This, however, was not the case in Fate Ørn, who chose Ismińa as their patron goddess when the city rose in power during its early days.

All fifty men rose when King Alkan entered the Senate. Grand Ambassador Gren Velthor walked towards Alkan and greeted him with much courtesy and respect. The rest of the Senate followed suit.

“I’m very much obliged by your courteous welcome,” replied Alkan. Elarosh was by his side, red in the face. Alkan’s bodyguards were not permitted to enter the Senate and this must have caused a quarrel between the king and his advisor, as far as Gren could tell.

As was the custom, even a visiting king had to be searched for concealed weapons and Gren could see with silent satisfaction that Alkan was not impressed. The Grand Ambassador wore his Senate robes: dazzling white with blue lining, unlike the rest of the members of the Senate, who wore similar white robes, with the only difference that their robes had a black lining, signifying their position as a Senator. Blue was considered to be above everyone else. Gren had salt and pepper hair with intelligent, light-green eyes.

He was the head of the Senate, elected by the members for him to run a second term as Grand Ambassador. He was enormously successful during his first term and elections for the position of Grand Ambassador took place every five years. He was also shrewd and cunning, which came in handy during his first term. He missed nothing and knew his enemies as well as he did his friends.

“If you please, Your Majesty, we have urgent matters to discuss concerning our city. I’ll have my servant escort you and your entourage to my villa on the outskirts of the city.” Gren didn’t ask him to leave. It was in his tone that made Alkan realise with grudging respect that he’d just been dismissed.

“Thank you, Grand Ambassador,” replied Alkan, in a cool, crisp voice. “I would like nothing better than to rest and stay a bit.”

“But, forgive me for being so blunt, I thought you were on your way to a royal wedding? And if you took the route by ship, you would by now be in the excellent company of the most exceptional King Gunner and the beloved Queen Shafis?”

Alkan looked at Gren, then to the rest of the Senate. Elarosh was looking at his feet, trying in vain to hide his face from showing what he was thinking. Gren didn’t hide his smirk.

“I’ll be on my way once I’ve refreshed myself,” Alkan replied, anger in his voice. “Would you be so kind as to have your servant show us the way?” Gren snapped his fingers and a servant came running across the marble floor. His footsteps were the only sound echoing across the hall.

“If you please, Your Majesty, please follow me.” Before taking his leave, Alkan looked around the Senate with clear scorn in his eyes. The hall was quiet until the last bit of his footsteps disappeared. The Senate began to mutter amongst themselves.

Gren looked at them and loudly proclaimed, “And that, my dear equals, is how you deal with youngsters who think they know better!”

As Alkan and Elarosh reached the bottom of the stairs, they heard a rupture of laughter coming from the Senate Hall, followed by an applause.

Elarosh could only guess who the topic of their unified joke was.

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