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Corrandion, Corridane
I am JT, Ringer, nutjob, and archer, in that order. I like animated films, epic films, book films, movie music, folk music, and the occasional random other thing. I make friends by accident and like it that way...

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03 August 2012

Chapter 46

Chapter XLIX

The attacker, who was dressed in the livery of Naibern, turned on his heel to hurry away. The horrified crowd was too shocked to obstruct him as he shoved past them, and so nearly allowed him to escape. However, the rear ranks, having some idea of what had occurred, held firm and resisted his attempts to force his passage. Whilst he struggled against them like a wild beast, Valun, his sword raised and a fearsome scowl in his voice and tone, cried “Let me pass! I will see this thing that dares to be called a man!”

The crowd, of course, stepped out of his path as quickly as they were able even as he sprinted past, his cape swirling behind and catching on the legs of bystanders. The terrified attacker finally turned at bay, desperate to complete the last part of his mission if he could. But there was no time. In a moment, the sword flashed and the renegade head had fallen to the ground. Glaring out at the whole assembly, the irate king snapped “The Naiberns are to be surrounded. Disarm them and kill any who attempt to resist or escape.”

Sheathing his sword with a slamming crash, Valun stalked back through the ranks and bounded up the steps toward his father, who was lying on the stone floor, the knife sheathed in his chest, supported by two guards who had changed course when they saw what had happened and were now each on one knee, holding the king’s head up until he was lost.

Valun came up to him and dropped to one knee before his father’s face so that the old man could see him better. “He is dead, father. I had to do it.”

“I know. It was necessary. But do not kill any more. They have done no harm. I am passing already, so move aside now so that I may be able to see my people and speak to them again before I go.”
Valun hastily stepped aside, shouted “Your king is dying! Salute and fall!”

In response, the crowd started a chant. “Hail, Valun, king of Corridane! Hail, king of Corridanes! Hail, conditor du pacem, victor in all battles! Pass into the place appointed you among those honorable to the One! Be at peace!” Their last duty to the old man done, the whole host dropped to one knee, to remain thus until their king released them.

By this time, Valnor had arrived and joined Valun and the people in their tribute. Two interminable minutes passed during which not a sound could be heard but low breathing. At the end of this time, the dying man they were all watching spoke for the last time. “Stand. The greatest time is yet to come, and I go now, a servant to the last.” Then, at last, Valun II, conditor du pacem, beloved of his people, died.

Valun, who had been standing in obedience to his orders, did not move for a further mniute to avoid breaking the peace.But following this, he judged that the time was ripe to begin the new era. “My people! So much has been said already, I will not keep you longer. The king shall be buried with honor, but the festival is for a time of peace. There is not yet peace in the land, but I will do what I must to bring it about. Now, go forth and do as you were. Set men to watch for the return of the Longfurrow and send him to me at that time. I am with my people again. Those who do my people no harm are my people also. Be at peace.” Waving the crowd away, he turned away and descended the stairs at a place where a path was open. Valnor and the Valkyries followed him, ashamed that they had failed when called on. There was no sound while Valun was within sight of the people, but when he had disappeared, the royal party heard a great clamor arise from behind. The guards were apprehensive, but Valun reassured them. “The people must release themselves at some time. Those who remain silent are dangerous.”

In silence, the party returned to the castle, and there settled themselves down to rest. Valun ordered that something should be done to deal with his father’s body, and further that a man should be sent to help him prepare himself. Last, he ordered that Robert should be warned of a visit.

When the attendant arrived, Valun, who had been wearing full battle armor since he left the castle, began with his help to remove himself from the shell and exchange it for less cumbersome ceremonial garb. This done, the attendant removed the armor for the purpose of restoring it to its former glorious shine. When he had replaced his armor with more easily wearable ceremonial garb, Valun left his chamber and proceeded down toward that of Robert. As he passed through, he noted that several kitchen attendants had appeared as if from the floor of the building. James approached him then and explained “The guard, my lord. Some of sir Robert’s survivors. They wish to do honor to their captain.”

“Very well, they shall carry on. Is he awake?”

“Yes. He has been told you would come.”

“Very well. You may go.” Leaving James, Valun turned toward the door that opened into Robert’s room. Knocking once on the door, which was standing open, he entered.

“Good day, my captain. Are we well today or not?”

This time Robert did not even attempt to rise. “I’m afraid, my lord, that I am not well. It is pain today for me.”

“Well, sir Trondale, I have grave news that all but you have heard, so be strong for my sake and do not fail me and die. My father has been killed.”

“The old king has been killed? Who could have laid a hand on him?!” cried Robert, surging upward like a great wave.

“Calm yourself. I slew the man myself. He was dressed as a Naibern. The other Naiberns gave no trouble. I know not where he came from.”

“Then assume he is as he seemed. Destroy the rest of them and you will have no trouble.”

“They are my people now! I will not kill my people!”

“Then you would live in a den of snakes! Would you?”

At that moment they were interrupted by James, who came hurrying in more agitated than they had seen him in some time. “My lords! There is a man outside crying to see you! He says his business is most urgent! He is desperate, my lords!”

Valun leapt to his feet as Robert bellowed “Then bring him to us and do not fall to pieces on the doorstep! Are you a Longfurrow or not?!”

Meanwhile, Valun had nearly knocked James to the floor as he dashed to the door and shouted for his servant. “Where is the man David? Call out the veterans! Every man on the lines!”

While all this fruitless noise was being made, another man had had the presence of mind to admit the messenger who was causing all the fuss. This man, who was clearly a Corridane, crossed the hall in a moment and fell at the king’s feet. “My lord, have mercy! Spare your people in their shame!”

“Their shame? What is this? What has happened?”

Raising himself only slightly, the man drew a breath and moaned “Corridanes are hunting the Naiberns! Some have been killed already!”

            Valun raised the distraught man to his feet. “Thank you for bringing word to me now. Had you been later, I would have had no mercy. I can not let my people do this. Go, work in the kitchens until the work is done. I will require most of the men.”

Falling to and rising again from one knee, the man said “Thank you, my lord. They swept me along, but, knowing your words, I turned away as soon as I was able.” He then hurried away toward the kitchen.

Valun stepped out into the hall and cried “Your countrymen are deep in a great crime, men. I require you to come out with me and stop them. You may have to slay your countrymen today, but remember; those who repent before us will not be slain. I will have none of that before me. Come!”

            About fifty of Robert’s guards, who, as it happened, had not yet removed their blades, fell into line behind the king, who also was armed. The gates were opened in succession before them, as they marched out to quell this defiance of the king’s decree.

            Almost as soon as they passed the gates, Valun and the men could hear the cries of the rioting citizens and their victims. Their clamor, however, was deceptively loud, so that the men had to march through several streets before they encountered the perpetrators.

            Finally, the king’s party happened suddenly upon a party of men who had just meted out their own justice to several men dressed in the garb of Naibern. As the guardsmen surrounded them, Valun stepped forward to face the killers. Indicating the corpses, he said “These men did you no harm. Had they wished to, they would have been slain before this. You have slain innocent men, and moreover, you have done this against my strict order. Therefore, you must be punished. I give you leave to speak before your sentence is pronounced. Unhand them.”

            The men, who had been forced to their knees, were allowed to rise then, and one began to speak. “My lord, we did this because we were overcome with grief that these men and their countrymen, have brought upon us. You know of what we speak: you yourself slew the man who killed the king, and we loved the king. Will you not allow us that? We could not contain ourselves, worrying that perhaps more of those men were waiting for a chance to strike. We could not, my lord, we simply could not do as you ordered of us.”

            “I do not ask you to repent of defying me. Do you repent of the slaying of innocent men, defying the last words of the great king whom you say you so loved?”

            His men held twenty prisoners. One by one, they spoke their minds to their judge. Twelve of them saw the great wrong they had done and wept at it, repenting. The rest did not, believing in their supposed right to wreak revenge on those who had lately taken part in such great harm to them.

            Moved by their reactions, Valun prepared to pass the awful sentence on his people. “Defying the orders of your king is a lesser evil by far than slaying innocent men. However, I must let it be known that I will not allow anyone to do such a thing without great pressing reason. Therefore, I say that you who did repent of the slaying, you must go forth from this city and never return through its gates or settle within sight of them. Henceforth, you are forgotten here. You are exiled from my city, not my country. To those of you who did not repent, I may not give you another chance. You will teach the people that they can not sit and debate, and so determine whether there is anything to repent of. Men must repent and forgive once, for all time, and not think to revenge themselves on those who no longer think of harming them. Therefore, in payment to the One and the innocents you slew, you must die, here and now.” At a gesture, the unrepentant men were slain without a second look by some of the guards. “Then Valun concluded. “Some of you shall have to deal with the bodies. Wherever you meet more such as these, ask them why they do this, and then ask them if they repent. Do not reveal the sentence until they have made their choice. Then, carry it out. Those who swear that they have done nothing may go free. As you see, you will know them by their blades.” As he said this, Valun gestured toward the blades which had been taken from the prisoners, all of which were stained. “Do as I have said. I will return to the castle to await your reports.”

            The dispirited king waited for several hours in the great hall before anyone came to him with the news he had ordered. While he sat thus, David finally reappeared at his side. Valun did not care to hear explanations at that time, and David did not offer him any, simply standing by his chair prepared to run for the next thing which was wanted.

            When Valun could stand the peace no longer, he spoke without shifting his gaze from the front door of the hall. “I have slain my people. May I still wear the crown, or am I a monster?”

            “My lord, this is not at all what you should think. I heard your orders from the men. The ones you slew were murderers, who did not care that it was so. You must set barriers before the people if there is to be peace. You must not berate yourself so harshly for deigning to serve justice in such a way. Those who live know that they were punished. Those who did no harm had no harm come to them. It was as it should be. The king can not let defiance go unpunished, but he must have a soft hand in dealing it out. By giving them the chance to repent, you gave them leave to offer their loyalty back to you. They will live in peace, for there is no shame on them beyond the walls of the city, which they will never enter again. In short, my lord, you have done as a king might do. Put this behind you and rule the remainder of your people with the same fair hand.”

            “It is not that I might have done wrong, but that I might lose the people themselves because of it. They lived in secrets and fear for so many years…”

            David stopped a passing servant and requested that food and drink be brought to the table. Stepping forward so that he was now facing the king, he asked “What must I say to make you believe this is true? You have done as you must, and you alone are the only man in the kingdom who does not believe it! If you can not bring yourself to accept this, there is one path open to you; renounce the crown and declare prince Valnor king in your stead.”

            Valun, who had to this point been sullen throughout the meeting, suddenly became animated, loudly protesting “That I can not do! My father named me king and not him!”

            “Then, from your love for the One and your father, believe what I say: You are a good man, you will be a great king, and you must, after you bury him, forget your father, for it is he who is driving you to madness over your treatment of the people he gave you to tend, even though he is now dead! If you can not loose your grasp on the desire to achieve your father’s pinnacle, you will go mad and fail miserably. Each son is a new man, and has no duty to anyone to be greater than his father, even though he be the king. How you see fit is not how your father saw fit; your time is different. It is incumbent upon you to force the people to fulfill your father’s words, but you must do this without forcing them to do anything. Therefore, you fear to punish them. Hear this, the people know you must do this; you explained yourself well enough when it began. They know that it is the right of the king to levy such penalties upon them, even if the king does not. Have faith; your people remain true to your house. When you slew those murderers, did the people cry out, or riot still more? They did not. There is peace in the city now because you acted, not despite it. I would suggest at least that you leave us all for some time, and learn that you are beholden to no shadows anymore, be they your father or hundreds you did not know.”

            Valun pounded his fist on the oaken table. “It is not your place to teach me! Return to your past duties, and I will see to myself!”

            Ever respectful, David stepped away, bowed, and said “As you wish, my lord.” Then he disappeared into the kitchen, where he had before been a minder of the great fire.

            Valun sat in silence for some minutes, thinking over the servant’s words as he chewed the venison which had been served whilst the man was speaking. Watching the sunlight disappear from a high window, he did not notice the man enter the room.

            “Everything he said was true.” remarked Robert, who was entirely alone and standing with the aid of a strong ash staff. Moving over and sitting when the king started at the sight of him, Robert added “If you will not hear him, than hear me, who has followed you and suffered with you through just what seems to be ailing you; the loss of your father, the man you vowed you would strive to be. Your trouble is, you are trying too hard. If you do not release it now, you, of all people, will begin to hate your father because you believe you must do everything as he did, even though you can not. You do not. Your father knew it, your brother knows it, I know it, the people know it. You do not. This, then, is what you must learn before you will come into your own as king: It is for the man himself to make himself great in the eyes of the people; great men do not spring from the minds of others. Learn this, and you will be happy. Leave your brother as your regent, and go forth with my people, be their son for a time, and learn that your father does not guide your destiny because you wear a crown and are called king. Will you do this, for me, and Richard, and all your people?”

            Valun sighed heavily, suddenly feeling that at last he had been told what he needed to do. “I will do it for the people. My father’s festival shall be held when I deem myself ready to return.”

            “Thank you, my lord.”

            Valun then sent a nearby attendant in search of the prince, who was most likely in seclusion to mark the loss of his father. It was precisely at that opportune moment that a doorwarden announced that a messenger had come from the king’s guards, with sir Richard in tow.

            Sir Richard opened the door for himself a moment later, already voicing his astonishment at the news. Even as he paid homage to the presence of the king, he was demanding an explanation from the man.

            “What is this, my lord? You have put your own people to death? Have you gone mad? On our return here, we passed many men who said they had been exiled from the city. Do you care?”

            His mind settled, Valun was able to drop into the stern tone he needed at the time. “I will take no more of that from you, though I know you are a loyal servant to me. I will, however, give you an answer. Did you not ask any men why they said these things?”

            “No, my lord. It seems that I have failed. May I be seated?”

            “Where you wish. I condemned some to death and exiled others because they murdered, though I particularly said that the prisoners were to be accepted. Did no one tell you that one dressed as a Naibern prisoner killed my father in front of all the people?”

            Richard was visibly taken aback. “I did not hear. I grieve at it, my lord, but I might also admire the man’s determination and boldness.”

            “I give you that. Now, because this happened, my people revenged themselves on innocent men who had been disarmed. I could not allow this to be so without punishment. Those who repented were exiled, and those who did not were slain. Those who did nothing were let free.”

            “I believe you did right, my lord. They will know you as a stern but merciful king.”

            At that time, Railon and John, who had been riding together some way behind Richard, entered the room. Both were dressed in battle armor and carrying their helmets under their arms. “I believe your man told you we would be coming?” inquired Railon, handing his helmet off to a man who had come forward to take it. Moving to sit at the long table close by Richard, he added “We have great business to speak of with you.”

            John followed the desert lord, saying nothing as he placed himself some way apart from the others.
            Turning his gaze on Railon, Valun said “Your companion I know, and I would have words with him. You, however, I know not, and you have not said who you are, nor why you dare to sit in my presence without acknowledgement?”

            “I am Railon, tenth king of Gairbairia. My house claims descent from Tyrone of Gaimairon. As a king, I claim the right to rest myself before others.”

            “And you, John, am I not your king?”

            John rose to his feet and replied in a clear voice “I am John of Ronaieria, brother of Elmbran, our king. We claim descent from Dalton of Taronga. I have never been your subject. In fact, I was under threat of death to capture or to kill you. But I renounce that order, for you befriended me, knowing not who I was. Let them kill me; they will find it hard.” His speech concluded, he resumed his seat.

            Noting Valun’s surprise, Railon and Richard spoke in unison. “It is all so. We have all three sworn to hunt the men responsible until they are dead. We also know who we must find: Kalveston, calling himself emperor of Naibern. Will you join us?”

            “Gladly would I do so, but I think that I must not. I have other matters to attend to. Also, I think that Richard would be an able representative for me in such a matter. Attend me, brother.”
            Valnor, who had just arrived, moved close by the king at his command. “What do you require that you call me away from my grief?”

            “I require you to take my seat. I wish to go forth for a time. I am not at peace, as I should be if I am to be a true king. You shall act for me, as if you were king, until I return. Do you swear to return my power to me when I do that?”

            “Yes. That I promise, on the faith our father had in us.”

            “Then I go. I will know if you keep your word, for I do not go so far. I will know myself better when I return.” With that, Valun rose from his seat and moved toward the door. At a signal, Robert rose and retrieved a chair which had been in his room. This he passed to an attendant, who set it down at the foot of the steps to the king’s seat.

            “Take your seat, brother. This will show the people that you do not claim the crown from me yet. Good day.” Valun then offered his brother a warrior’s salute, which was returned. Formalities complete, Valun opened the door for himself, calling to an attendant “I shall require my horse. Bring it to the city walls, the rear. I stay with the Trondale.”

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