It was two days later when the army reached Carribeasa, which had been the major hub of Corridane’s trade with Brandia, and was suffering from the embargo which was in force during the declared war against that nation. That being the case, Valun and his men could not say that they received a warm reception. Instead, the reception which Valun and Richard met at their arrival was only the barest minimum allowable to recognize a King’s presence
Although he kept his temper in check, Valun was extremely angry to see the coldness in the officials’ expressions as they came out to meet him.
“What is the meaning of this behavior? Does the King merit nothing more than ten public officials to see him inside the walls?” Richard exclaimed in indignation.
Holding up his hand in greeting, Valun silenced Richard. “Peace, Richard. I too, have read some of our history, and it is understandable that the men of this city do not take our mission lightly. Would you, if your main channel of trade was cut off because two distant palaces have insulted one another? I believe you would not, so do not be angry with them. It is enough that they do not defy my orders sent by you.”
As Valun turned to face the officials once more, he heard the sound of steel being drawn. Then the leader spoke up. “Are we, or are we not, following your orders, sir? I believe we are not. In fact, the men from our city whom you have ordered into this war of yours rose in revolt at its arrival and swore to hold the city against their own countrymen unless you let them be. It is for you to decide now whether your family or your country is more important to you, as you must choose between your honor and your Kingship. Tell us now what you choose.”
Stunned by this response, Valun sat speechless for a long moment. His General, Richard, though, did not. Signaling to the Valkyries to surround the officials, he asked Valun “Shall we finish them here, and be done with the business, my friend?”
Coming out of his trance, Valun answered “No. We can not do that, for that would give the men of the city a real reason to defy us, as we had attacked their messengers without provocation. It is better to let these men return inside the walls and tell everyone there that their King holds his own honor above his public station, and makes no move to reprimand them until he has, with the help of loyal men, achieved what he set out to do. Tell them that, you traitors, and then discover whether they would rather follow me or retain their collective treason over their heads. If they choose that path, we will find the ringleaders and have them killed the way all traitors die. Ask them if they want to hang, and tell them to be thankful that their King has higher ideals that force him to let them retain their disgraced lives!”
As Valun turned his back on the treacherous officials, one of them raised a bow which he had hidden under his cloak, drew, and fired at his King. Valun felt the wind and saw the arrow pass over his right shoulder to stick in the ground two feet in front of his horse. Turning to the archers of his guard, he said quietly “He has given the worst provocation possible. Finish him.” He continued on his way, not daring to flinch at the sounds of the brutal deed behind him.
Valun rode silently for several minutes, ignoring Richard’s repeated attempt to speak. Upon realizing that the King wished silence, Richard ordered the guards to remain silent on their own accounts. The party rode this way until they had reached the camp. There, Valun dismounted, still silent, handed his horse over to David, and entered his tent without greeting anyone.
Richard walked with David as he returned the King’s steed to the camp’s stables. As he was refreshing the horse, David turned and asked Richard “What is wrong with His Majesty? Surely nothing could have ruined his plans?”
From his position alongside the rear of the royal mount, Richard replied “Most unfortunately, yes. The King has just weathered the worst thing that could have befallen his mission. Carribeasa and its surrounding countryside are in rebellion against him.”
“Yes. The men drafted from that city refused the King’s order, and they went so far as to attack the King for no other reason than that he expected them to fulfill their duty. He is in his tent now, taking it like a man, but he is deeply hurt. You may trust me, for I have stayed with him for the past ten years through everything.”
“How can you prove that you are worthy of the trust? You know that Sir John had the same to say for himself, and he turned out rotten.” David replied, as he hung up the saddle in its place at the ceiling of the stable tent. Raising a brush, he began combing out the stallion’s long mane.
Lifting his hand from the horse’s back, Richard replied “Yes, I am aware of that. But are you aware that I agreed to follow the King in everything, along with you, no matter how many chances he gave us to turn back? If you are trustworthy, then so am I. And I advise you not to try to attend His Majesty until he calls.” With that, Richard left the stable tent to look to his duties.
Staring after him, David said to himself “I can’t be blamed for being on the watch for treachery from him, though. He probably is a true friend, but he could be a Brandian who is trying to get back in his government’s favor by delivering the last of the Corridane royalty up to them.”
It was nearly an hour later when Valun finally reemerged and called on David to attend him. David, who was standing outside waiting for just such a call, came into Valun’s presence only moments after he had sent for him. When David had made his presence known, Valun told him “Take this message to Richard, and tell him to have it fired over the walls of the city. It ought to persuade the people to abandon their rebellion.”
Silently, David took the note, which the King had already tied, and went out. Obedient to his orders, he immediately began searching for Richard. Several minutes later, he found the General drilling several men in hand to hand combat. Richard turned as David approached him and asked him “Does the King require my presence?”
“Not at this time. But he has orders for you, which I was sent to tell you.”
“What are the King’s orders?”
“The King’s orders are that you take this message here and have it fired over the walls of the rebellious city. Then we will wait here to find out what the dissidents do in response.”
“That is all? It is surprisingly simple. I will see to it now.” As Richard passed close to David’s side, he added “I can tell you that I was unsure of whether the King would respond at all until he returned from this adventure.”
Richard did move, immediately, to follow Valun’s order. As soon he had found himself a strong archer, the two mounted and rode back toward the city. Once they had arrived within one hundred yards of it, Richard passed the note to the shooter, who slid it carefully over a good arrow and pulled back, while raising the point until he judged that it would fly two feet over the wall. Then he released and the two men sat watching as the shot carried over the ramparts. “Our mission is complete for today. No doubt they will fire their response back at this spot tomorrow. We will come and get it.” Without further words, the two rode away back to the camp.
At the time that this was occurring, a man standing watch over the city happened to be completing his circuit around the walls. When he saw the two men, and the arrow pointed straight toward him, he nearly panicked, thinking “Assassins! They’re out to get all they can before they attack!” With this thought, he crouched down until he was covered by the parapet and stayed there until the missile had gone by. When he saw that the two men were turning to ride away, he rose once more and went down to where the arrow had stuck in the ground. It was only then that he noticed the note tied to it.
“Ah, a message. I must take this to the chief council of the city.” With that, he pulled the arrow out of the ground, leaving the note intact, and began to carry it to the council hall. When people stopped and asked what he was doing with it, he only said “It is a message from the outside, which the council must see.” The man continued pushing his way through the throng until he reached the steps of the council hall.
As he was running up the steps, he was stopped by a guard.
“The council is meeting. No one is allowed admittance at this time.”
“Are you saying that the people of this city are not allowed to hear the decisions made be the seven who rule our lives? I must see them. I have a message from the outside.”
“It must be verified. Show it to me now.”
Without further protest, the sentry produced the note, still wrapped around the arrow. The guard checked it carefully, but could find no sign of anyone having tampered with the binding. Satisfied that it was legitimate, he took it from the other man, glanced at the seal, saying “The falcon! It is from the palace!” and turned to go up the steps to the council hall. Once there, he pushed open the doors without warning and marched straight in.
The council was very surprised at his entrance. “…Yes, but if we do that, then- What are you doing in here? No one is admitted!”
Striding boldly up to the table, the guard announced, as calmly as if he were only ordering more food from a servant, “This is urgent. We have another message from the palace. This one bears the Palace’s own seal. I suspect that not a single man has read this note since the King wrote it himself.” With that, the guard drew the arrow into the open and slammed it down so that it stuck firmly in the table in front of the council.
As the leader, seated in the center, reached out to untie it, he hissed “On pain of death, never use that title in our hearing again. We are not to be overruled by the man living in the Palace. Remember that.” Leaning back in his chair, the top official unrolled the note slowly. The guard, who was standing directly across from him, saw the look of horror come onto his face as he began to read.
“I, the descendant of Valun the Great, and lawful ruler of this my land and its central city, do hereby declare …”