Chapter 1: The Feast of Laurus
King Laurus, whose crown of blood stains the sky
Whose voice is for a battle cry
He who gathered the saviors seven
Then ascended into heaven.
“Father? The first feast of the tournament begins soon, and the guests are arriving. Lord Miles will be looking for you.” Jewel said, poking her head into her father’s dark office. “We should go greet our guests as soon as we can.”
She watched as her father, King Gavin Rannell, rose, closing his book of folklore decisively as he did so. King Gavin was a strong man, despite his age, and always had an air of dignity about him. His was a sort of silent strength that left you awed and terrified at the same time.
“Time passes too quickly, my dove. Has everyone planned arrived?”
“Yes… them, and then some.” Jewel said, clasping her arms behind her back. “Emperor Kalipus came as well… uninvited.” She clasped her hands behind her back and stood tall, trying to hide the quiver in her voice.
King Gavin furrowed his brow and shook his head. “What? How did they get over the cliffs?”
“Nobody knows, Father. He just… appeared. With soldiers, nobles, and everything. It would have been nearly impossible for him to climb them with that many people, much less with horses and supplies.”
“That won’t do. Did the guards intervene?”
“Nobody knew what to do, father. He insists that he wants to join the tournament. He has a team of competitors and everything. He brought soldiers. What could we have done? Fought them unprovoked?”
“I had planned to sign a treaty among the four kingdoms to ally against The Tralvean Empire,” he muttered, beginning to pace. “I don’t know what I shall do now.”
“Could he have learned of the agreement beforehand? Do you think he’s here to prevent the treaty?”
King Gavin stopped in his tracks, his aged face paling considerably.
“If he knows already… This could end poorly. For us, and our kingdom.” He said, glancing at her. In the dim light, he looked ashen and weak. “Who could have told him?”
“Who knew of it?”
“Only the leaders of each of the other three kingdoms,” he said, sitting back down and closing his eyes. He began to mutter under his breath and rub his temples. “Unless someone intercepted my messengers, but they reported it was delivered without incident…”
Jewel took a few steps, crossing the room to reach him and placing a hand on his shoulder in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. Her father had never been one for physical touch, or any sort of social interaction, but had never seemed to mind her presence. “Father, it could be that he just came to participate in the tournament. They could be telling the truth.”
“When he doesn’t believe in The Seven Saviors? I have a hard time believing that he is joining to find eternal glory with Laurus now.”
“But how could he have found out? Would any of the kingdoms have told him?”
“I wouldn’t put it past Queen Lupa or King Lydus. If they thought they could benefit from it, they’d most certainly seize any advantage they could find over me.”
“Are you in danger, Father? If he knows that the treaty is your idea-”
“I’m more worried for you, my dove,” He said, turning and gently taking Jewel’s hand. “You know his habits.”
The Empire of many Queens. Jewel thought, recalling another name for the Tralvean Empire. Emperor Kalipus had just taken his fifth wife last year, annexing the Awician Kingdom of Shomie, bringing the Tralvean Empire almost as close as it had been in the ancient times of King Laurus.
“I don’t think he’ll wish to marry me,” Jewel said, her throat feeling rather dry. She desperately hoped that he wouldn’t. “I’m no Queen yet. He would gain nothing by marrying me until you-”
“He’s killed kings before.” King Gavin sat back in his chair, rubbing his temples. “That’s how he gained the throne in Basik and in Zaldi.”
“Father, please be careful. You mustn’t ever wander off alone. It’s dangerous for you-”
There was a rapping on the heavy wooden door, followed by indistinct murmuring on the other side.
“You may enter,” King Gavin sighed, absently straightening his robes over his legs, and straightening the greying hair on his head. The door opened, allowing Lord Miles Estone and Mage Ben Moshall into the dark study.
Lord Estone was a very diminutive man. He was the sort of person that you could have an entire conversation with, but come out of it remembering nothing about him. Jewel had spent much of her life around him, but could only ever comment of his height. Everything about him seemed so distant and hidden, it was hard for her to feel very close to him. He appeared far older than he was, worry lines and wrinkles surrounding his eyes and cutting deep bores into his forehead. His hair was prematurely greying as well, the dark brown curls streaked with massive sweeps of grey that appeared to take over his whole head when it was squinted at just right. This gave the impression of him being far older than Jewel’s father, but she knew they were about the same age, Lore Estone actually being the younger of the two.
In stark contrast to Lord Estone’s presence, Mage Moshall was a man that everyone instantly knew and that everyone loved. He had a quiet presence, but it was one that everyone remembered long after meeting him. His bulky figure and sweeping robes always made Lord Estone seem even smaller. Jewel swore that they’d eat the other noble up one day. ‘Uncle Ben’, as Jewel often called him, was a kind man that never passed her by without at the very least smiling at her. He was several years older than her father, and certainly appeared to be the more mature one. His white beard, which he’d grown out to reach halfway down his chest, contributed greatly to this effect.
After Jewel’s mother had left, her father had asked these two, his closest friends, to help raise her. Lord Miles Estone had handled all of Jewel’s formal education, Mage Ben Moshall her religious training, and her father had taught her all about the court.
“Ah, Miles, Ben. It’s good to see you,” King Gavin said, hurriedly standing up. “We have a dilemma on our hands, and I need your advice more than ever.”
“Emperor Kalipus, I’d assume? Most of the party is buzzing about his presence.” Mage Moshall seemed at ease, his wise eyes twinkling behind his greyed hair.
“We should have consulted the Aiolo about this. He could have seen it,” Lord miles said, his forehead wrinkling considerably.
“Maybe. Or else they could have led us into a false sense of security.”
Lord Miles turned directly to Jewel, bowing deeply. “You look lovely tonight, Heir Jewel.”
Jewel bowed her head respectfully. “Thank you very much, Lord Miles.”
“You should go out and spend time with the other youth, my Heir. Connections are vital, especially for when you become Queen.”
Jewel glanced towards the door. The hall outside of it was bustling with activity, causing a burst of excitement to well up inside of her. Her father was a man who liked peace and quiet, so he never held an event unless he had to. When the tournament rolled around every five years, the castle was flooded with strange and exciting people, so she’d only attended four tournaments in her life, and only remembered three of those. Even then, she’d barely left her father’s side, and knew little to nothing of the people in attendance.
“Will you need anything else, Father?” She asked, turning to face him and politely bowing.
“No, my dove. I will meet you at the feast.” He waved his hand, dismissing her as Jewel opened the heavy door and stepped through. As she left, she heard the three men’s voices drop low, murmuring together as if everything was a big secret.
She already knew that the Tralvean Empire was here. She already knew what they wanted. Everyone did.
Mylina was doomed.
For the first time in his life, Lord Romulus Voorna was going to steal something. The very thought of that burned at his mind, making him feel more jittery than he ever had, but he had to wait. He had to do the deed during dinner. It was his only chance to do it. His only chance to prove that he was worthy.
He constantly felt the pouch he’d tucked into his pocket burning against his chest. If he lost that, he would never get away with his theft. It was imperative that he keep it hidden.
It didn’t help his nerves that his mother was forcing him to spend time around Lady Gwendolyn Savin, and Mage Ren Ranwin by proxy.
“Have you found that book yet, Ren?” Gwendolyn asked, walking through the shelves quickly. Romulus followed behind, carefully avoiding the long train of her dress.
“I’m afraid that I am not overly familiar with Eldahide’s library,” Ren answered, his ruddy face appearing from behind a mahogany bookshelf.
It wasn’t that Romulus disliked Lady Gwendolyn or Mage Ren, but he often felt out of place among the two scholars. He had never had a love of studying, and found the constant time that they spent in the library to be tiresome and boring.
“They must have it- it’s a staple,” Gwendolyn said, climbing up a ladder to scan the higher shelves. She only had to go up a few steps to reach the tallest shelf, herself being several inches taller than either Romulus or Ren.
“What book are you looking for?” Romulus asked. He hadn’t been listening earlier, when he was certain they had discussed it.
“Just a book of folklore,” Gwendolyn said, tossing her long black hair over her shoulder. “I was studying it at home, and would like to continue.”
“Don’t you know the folklore? I can’t ever escape it.” Romulus fingered through a book of poems, quickly scanning them for a poem to suit him.
“Of course I know the folklore,” Gwendolyn said, her voice edging on accusing. “I simply wish to see the original texts. It’s far easier to study a piece untouched my meddling storytellers.” She grabbed a book from the top corner, flipped through it, and then replaced it. “Another false alarm.”
“I don’t think it’s here, My Lady,” Ren said. “We’ve scoured the history section, the religion section, and the verse section.” Ren climbed down the ladder, his plain grey robes sweeping dust off of the shelves as he descended. “Perhaps it’s time that we give up and move into the party.”
Yes please, Romulus thought, gazing longingly toward the door. He could hear people bustling about behind it, and he desperately wanted to get out there.
Besides, he couldn’t be late for dinner.
“We should check the history again. It must be there…” Gwendolyn said, walking down the shelves again. Romulus followed, scanning the shelves halfheartedly.
He stopped next to a small collection of brightly colored books. Patrons and Heroes of the Tournament, He read, trailing a finger down one of the spines. It felt brand-new, as if it had never been opened. He slipped one of the books out with interest, nearly flipping through it. It would be worth a quick read, if it held the information he sought. He didn’t want to look with Ren and Gwendolyn right there, though. It was too risky, even if it did seem innocuous.
“Dinner will start soon. If we don’t hurry, we’ll be late,” Romulus reminded her, quickly slipping the book into his coat, right next to his pouch. Gwendolyn picked out another book off of the top shelf and started flipping through the pages faster than Romulus could follow. “You go then. I’ll meet you there later. Just avoid our mothers, and it’ll be fine.”
“What do I do if they see me alone?”
“Lie. It’s not that hard,” She said, handing the book to Ren. “This one is interesting. Not what we’re looking for, but interesting nonetheless.”
Romulus sighed in relief and opened the door, walking into the hallway. He needed a few moments to think alone. To check his new resource. Dinner was starting soon.
The ballroom was filled with people, the wall of sound almost knocking Lord Romulus Voorna off of his feet. Romulus adored most any festivity, but balls had always been his favorite. He could hardly wait for dinner to finish so that the ball would officially begin. By then, his theft would be over, and he could finally relax and have fun.
He gazed down, leaning over the ornate railing of the balcony. He could see so many new faces, all of them milling about from person to person, looking like a moving stormcloud, constantly swirling and changing.
Thallas had brought several of their best musicians, and had placed them throughout the massive ovular room in such a way that there was always music, no matter where you were standing. The most miraculous thing was that each player was playing fully in time with each other, so that the tune was a smooth as silk as one wandered through the room. They could even be heard from the balcony, far above them, although it was considerably quieter and less crowded. It helped to clear his mind to be so far away from the bustling crowd.
The columns that lined the room were huge- probably big enough that he couldn’t wrap his arms around even a quarter of them. The room was illuminated by obsidian chandeliers, which the mages had caused to float up near the painted mural that covered the entire ceiling. The mural depicted each of The Seven Saviors and represented them through the world around the people.
Laurus, the god of kings, wealth and victory, was depicted in the cities, his arms pushing up grand citadels all over the land. Matercula, the Goddess of Beauty, motherhood, and Healing, was depicted in the rivers. Her long hair flowed in the streams, her hands guiding it into gentle lakes and ponds. Somnia, the goddess of shadow and magic, made up the sky. Her cape flowed, glittering with a thousand stars, her hands encasing the sun as she pushed it down towards the horizon. Occasus, the god of death and prophecy, was depicted in the earth, his arms forming mountains, reaching desperately up towards Somnia. Cartus, the god of wisdom, scholars, and travel, made up the roads. He reached out for Laurus, connecting each city and town with the pieces of his tattered robe. Lituus, the god of music and art, made up the wind. Metus, the goddess of plague, war, and destruction, was depicted in the oceans. Where Matercula had been calm and gentle, Metus raged. The waves of her hair struck against the gentle stream of Matercula’s, and her arms called up mighty waves that approached the cities that Laurus had called up.
Romulus looked back down at the ballroom floor, finding a large commotion around the center of the room. He squinted, trying to make out what was going on.
In the middle of the mass of people was a young woman he didn’t recognize, especially not from the distance he was sitting at. She was wearing a vibrant green that seemed to indicate that she was from Eldahide, and her long blonde curls were topped with a silver circlet.
She’s the Heir. He thought, watching as she moved about the room, bowing to the other royals she met. That’s Heir Jewel.
Eldahide’s royalty was known for their reclusive nature, particularly King Gavin. He’d always figured that his daughter would be similar to him, but the jovial woman below exhibited none of those characteristics. She gracefully moved from group to group, seemingly paying her regards to all in attendance.
Why have I never met her until now? Romulus wondered, watching as she continued her rounds. I hope I shall tonight.
He reached into his jacket, taking the book out and quickly opening it.
Lady Innogen… He thought, desperately watching for the name to show up. Eldahish heroes, Wraewit heroes… Thallasian Heroes.
He flipped two more pages before coming upon two paragraphs about the ancient hero, of whom he’d only heard passing mention to.
Lady Innogen was chosen of Metus through blood, and had taken part in the fourth tournament, when the rules were still new and malleable. After her run, the tournament was greatly revised to be far more similar to the model of rules that is used today. She was the first noble to enter that was not an-
“Brother! There you are!” someone said, clapping their hand over Romulus’s shoulder, almost knocking the book out of his hands. Romulus folded the corner of the page over and snapped the book shut, crouching over it as a mother protecting her child. Romulus carefully turned to face his twin brother, Heir Remus Voorna, who was standing next to his wife, Lady Cecily.
He was facing his victim. He was going to steal from his own brother. Would Remus ever forgive him? Would he ever forgive himself?
He quickly slid the book into his pocket, returning it to it’s space next to the pouch. The feeling of the coarse cloth against his skin tingled, as if reminding him about what he was going to do. It’s still there. Nobody knows. He thought, trying to calm his nerves.
He started to feel slightly ill, guilt building more and more in his gut as Remus smiled widely at him. “Doing some light reading, Brother? Has Lady Gwendolyn been rubbing off on you?” Romulus could barely look his brother in the eye.
Romulus and Remus had been best friends for their whole life, and had practically been attached at the hip their whole live, which made differentiating between the two nigh on impossible. Even their Mother had difficulty, and could only tell the two apart because of the birthmark on the back of Romulus’s neck. Now that Remus was married, it was significantly easier to tell the two of them apart. Remus could grow his hair out far longer than he could before, and now his dark brown curls were long enough that he could tie them behind his head, the ends just barely curling at his collar.
Cecily had belonged to the Kingdom of Thallas before marrying Remus, and was the daughter of the late Heir Josce Savin, and the cousin of Lady Gwendolyn. After her father’s passing, the throne had been passed on to Aurora, rather than her, leaving her eligible to Remus. She was a petite woman with very sharp features. Remus often joked that her elbows caused him more harm than Romulus’s dueling swords ever could. Her long black hair had been pulled up into a large ornamental knot on the top of her head, held in by a silver butterfly pin.
It pleased him to see his brother so in love with someone, particularly when he was known for his constant flirting. Cecily seemed to make him so happy, even though Romulus still had a habit of trying to make most girls he ran into swoon. Luckily, Cecily seemed to understand him, and didn’t mind it so much.
“Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you all evening,” Remus said grinning as he took his wife’s hand. “I’ve enjoyed the time you’ve given me with Cecily, but Mother has been harping on me for an hour to find you and Lady Gwendolyn.”
“She’s in the library,” Romulus said offhandedly. “She told me to come here, and that she’d join me later. I’m trying to enjoy my solitude until she does.”
“King Gavin just appeared, so dinner will start right about now. We’d better go get you seated at the Thallas table.” Remus slung his arm around Romulus and began walking down the grand staircase, leading back into the throng of people in the ballroom before. “Dearest, would you mind fetching your cousin for us?” Remus asked over his shoulder. Cecily smiled and nodded, kissing Remus’s cheek before disappearing into the crowd.
“Mother will want you and Lady Gwendolyn to spend more time together.”
“I know. Why must she insist it, though? It’s obvious that we don’t get along very well.”
Remus just laughed. “Arranged marriages can work out wonderfully. Just look at our parents-they are wonderful leaders, and are quite happy with the arrangement.”
Just because it gave them power. Remus thought, feeling a bitterness enter into his throat. They aren’t all that happy.
“I don’t want to marry someone that I don’t love,” Romulus said. “I highly respect Lady Gwendolyn, but I do not love her.”
“Consider yourself lucky, Romulus. Lady Gwendolyn is a woman sought by many suitors. You’re fortunate to be able to get so close to her.” Romulus’s mind immediately went to the constant string of library trips that Gwendolyn enjoyed. Romulus always found some poetry book to occupy himself, but Gwendolyn always seemed indignant of the writing. She always had preferred history tomes. He was fairly certain that she used that same tactic to avoid almost all of her suitors.
“Consider yourself lucky. You got arranged to marry a woman that you love.”
Remus fell silent for a moment and just patted his brother on his back. “I know, Romulus. I’m sorry. But please, try to make the best of it. It pains me to see you so hurt like this.”
Romulus nodded and turned towards the huge table. “I’ll try.”
Remus bid him farewell and walked around the table to the Zandrien side, leaving Romulus alone with the Thalesians. He saw Gwendolyn and Cecily leading the senile King Jodocus to his seat.
Romulus knew that his absence would be noticed soon. He hid behind a pillar, and then proceeded to reach into his pocket, pulling out his pouch and his book.
Romulus’s heart raced and his mouth felt dry.He felt sick. He couldn’t believe he was going to steal from his own brother. A brother who had never been unfair to him through his whole life.
He loved Remus, but he had to do this. He had to protect his honor in some way. He had to prove he was worthwhile.
It’s time… He thought, taking out the book, and the pouch, removing its contents into his hand.
Gwendolyn strongly disliked dinner parties, particularly the ones present at the Tournament. She wasn’t one for small talk and showy court antics. If she could choose, she’d simply have the heroes of Laurus chosen and be done with it, but ceremony demanded otherwise.
There will be another one tomorrow, she reminded herself. And that one will be worse.
This one was especially bad, as her mother was forcing her to sit near Lord Romulus. That by itself wasn’t unbearable- the two had learned how to ignore eachother quite well, and barely noticed the other anymore. The irksome part was that her mother was a seat away, constantly watching them. Constantly trying to get them to engage in conversation with each other.
Why can’t I sit with Ren, she said, moodily looking towards the ruddy mage, who seemed a million miles away from her. He at least has more to talk about than dancing and duels. Ren was stuck with several of the other lower lords and ladys from Thallas, all of whom Gwendolyn resented in some way. She scanned over the faces, noting their crimes as she went. Lady Phebe, the embezzler. Lord Feste, the adulterer. Lord Leonine, the slave trader. Gwendolyn hoped that one day, when she was queen, she would be able to weed out some of the corruption that ran rampant in the lower nobles.
“You haven’t eaten very much,” Romulus commented, gesturing at her barely-touched plate.
“I’m not particularly hungry,” she huffed, forcing a smile towards him. She leaned in and lowered her voice. “I want out of here.”
Romulus just nodded and looked back at his own barely-touched plate.
“You haven’t eaten much either,” she pointed out.
Romulus smiled sheepishly and shrugged. “I’m not feeling so well.”
Gwendolyn examined him, her porcelain brow furrowing. “You are quite pale,” she said. His skin was usually bronzed by the sun, but now he looked positively ashen, the lamplight seeming to wash his face rather than flush it. He was wearing his coat, the collar buttoned up all the way over his neck, as most people did in the winter. “Are you cold too?”
“What do you mean?”
Romulus looked down at his coat, as if seeing it for the first time, then laughed wanly. “I suppose I am.”
“You should go see your brother, he can help you,” she said, gesturing towards Heir Remus, sitting over at the Zandrien table. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind drawing some blood for you.” Remus was chosen of Matercula, and could heal others by placing his own blood onto a wound. Many considered Remus to be nothing less than a gift directly from the Seven Saviors, having been chosen both of Laurus and Matercula. Being chosen by one was rare, and being chosen by two was unheard of.
Romulus nodded absently, his eyes focusing on his brother. “Perhaps I shall…” He said, beginning to stand up. Before he could fully rise, however, someone began to move at the Eldahide table.
“Wait, sit down. The ceremony is starting,” she hissed, grabbing his shoulder and pushing him gently back into his seat.
King Gavin stood up from the head of the Eldahide table, the musicians pulling to a stop and the conversation dying off as he did so.
“I’d like to welcome you all to the Eldahide Citadel, and wish you all good luck in this upcoming Tournament.” King Gavin gestured widely to the guests. Gwendolyn joined in the polite applause that echoed throughout the chamber, settling back in her chair. Now she only had to wait for the heroes to accept the Laurus Crowns from King Gavin, which would go by very fast, given King Gavin’s own hatred for parties such as this. It was the only thing about the man that Gwendolyn respected.
She knew a lot about King Gavin that she held against him, the biggest crime of all being the murder of her own uncle. She never understood why he had to die- duels were rarely lethal, according to most law books. They were a show of pride, and of skills. It was more a choreographed dance with swords than an actual fight, and the one with the more complex moves would win. Death never happened, unless it had been planned. Nevertheless, her Uncle Josce, the former Heir of Thallas, was dead over a silly dispute over Gavin’s honor.
“For those of you who are… unfamiliar with our Tournament, I would like to describe what the Laurus Crown means” Gavin said, giving a pointed look towards the added-on section of the table, where the company from the Tralvean Empire was seated. “The crown must be worn by one of the direct bloodline of royalty, a descendant of those that were chosen by Laurus. These chosen individuals will then lead their chosen patrons in the Tournament. If this crown is knocked from your head, you are gravely injured, or you are killed, your team is ejected from the rest of the tournament. This crown represents your leadership, and so you must be able to hold onto it and successfully lead your team to become The Patron of Laurus. Once you have worn the crown, you accept your role, and cannot back out of except to die.”
King Gavin held up the first of the Laurus Crowns, a silver mass of metal that nearly resembled the basic design of a Citadel wall. The only thing that was missing were the gemstones that were customary to be imbedded in the crown where the guard towers stood. “I apologize for it’s unfinished state. I will have our crownsmith finish it tonight, before our next feast. This is the crown that I shall be using, so none of you need worry about it.”
Gwendolyn rolled her eyes and began poking at her food. She’d heard the rules of the tournament many times in her life. She’d even studied them before, just because her tutor said it was important to know.
“I would first like to honor our guests,” Gavin said. “Will the hero of the Tralvean Empire please step forward and accept his crown.”
Gwendolyn suddenly perked up in interest and shifted forward trying to see better. She’d heard much about the Tralvean empire, and even more about the Emperor himself, but had never seen him before.
The man who stepped forward was not what she expected to see. He was rather young for a ruler, only slightly older than most Heirs were, and far shorter than she would have imagined. With all of the stories and rumors surrounding him, she had been led to believe he would be a towering giant with a full beard complete with bloodstains, but the man that was standing and walking towards King Gavin was nothing like that. He seemed completely harmless. Completely normal. That didn’t stop many people from scooting their chairs away from him as he passed or making rude gestures at him behind his back.
Lower nobles can be so rude, she thought, rolling her eyes as some of the Wraewit lords hid their eyes from him, laughing behind their hands as he passed. They act as though it’s some joke.She had no love for Emperor Kalipus, but
Gwendolyn felt Romulus shift next to her. She glanced over, watching as he started to push out his chair.
“Where are you going? It’s rude to leave in the middle of a ceremony,” she hissed.
“I feel as though I’m going to be ill,” was all he said. He then silently stood up and began walking towards the Zandrien table, his arms shaking as he walked.
Gwendolyn felt a pang of guilt for reprimanding him, and even more for stopping him earlier. He seemed very sick, and only needed to ask his brother to heal him. He’d return soon, and hopefully would not look quite so ghostly.
Emperor Kalipus donned his crown, and made his way back to his seat, his head held higher than before, despite the heavy crown that now sat atop his brow, adorned with orange and red gemstones.
Next, Gavin called up Thallas. Gwendolyn watched as her mother, Heir Aurora, walked up, gracefully accepting the crown. Heir Aurora had no choice but to join now as the Heir to an old and senile king, and had expressed displeasure about the situation earlier, but now walked with her head high and not a worry on her face.
Luckily, Gwendolyn knew that Thallas’s patrons were quite good this year, and that her mother was in good hands. She wasn’t particularly worried.
Gwendolyn glanced over to the Zandrien table, where Remus was hurriedly leading Romulus out of the room, a worried look in his face. The pale Romulus stumbled after his brother, shaking more than ever.
“Will the hero of Wraewit please step forward and accept their crown?” King Gavin asked. Heir Saturio walked up, his steps even and his head high. Heir Saturio was known for his prowess on the battlefield, being one of the youngest generals to ever exist.
Gwendolyn knew more than most people though. She knew that several of his finest strategies had been thought up by some of the Wraewit scholars. She’d found that out from a drunk soldier at the last ball she had attended.
She saw a flash of color in the seat that Romulus had previously been sitting in. Looking closer, she found a book bound in a bright red sitting upon the velvet cushion.
Patrons and Heros of the Tournament, she read, picking it up carefully.
What would Romulus be doing with a history book? He’s sure acting strange, she thought, flipping through the pages, coming across one that had been bookmarked.
Heathens, she thought, gently folding the page back into it’s original position and smoothing the crease left. Can’t even take care of a book.
Lady Innogen? What is the world would Romulus care about lady Innogen, she thought, looking over the dense wall of text that completely filled the page that had been bookmarked. Why would he care about a Thalassian hero that ultimately lost?
“Will the hero of Zandrien please step forward and accept his crown?” Gavin asked. The entire room shifted, glancing at the door that Remus and Romulus had disappeared into. As if on cue, Heir Remus ran through the door, hurriedly running up to King Gavin, looking quite embarrassed.
“I apologize, your majesty. I was tending to my brother.” Remus bowed his head, kneeling on the floor as the crown was lowered onto his head.
“Wait!” someone shouted from the back of the room. The entire room again turned to face the door to see another figure enter the room.
Heir Remus. Again.
Gwendolyn glanced at the Heir Remus by King Gavin again, suddenly noticing his coat, his hair color, his eyes. Everything was slightly off. That wasn’t Heir Remus.
“Stop! Don’t lower that crown!” He said, running towards the King and Lord Romulus. “What do you think you’re doing, brother?”
Lord Romulus glanced up, grabbed the crown with shaking hands, and quickly brought it down on his head, standing up and facing the crowd. He yanked something out of his hair.
A wig! Gwendolyn thought, staring at the mass of hair in his hand. Huh. He’s more clever than I gave him credit for.
“I am the hero of Zandrien. I am of the bloodline of the Zandrien kings of old. The crown is on my head,” He said, his voice quavering. “The only way to eject me now is to kill me!”
Remus just stood in the middle of the room and shook his head, his face paling. “What have you done, brother? What have you done?” In the dull light shining through the black obsidian, his paling face looked grey and dead.
Like a corpse.
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