Brightvale History: The Two Kings - Part Seven
Vienna awoke with a start. She'd heard something, something that sounded very, very wrong. “Dublin?” Vienna called. There was a soft thud outside the door. A thud that sounded suspiciously like someone collapsing onto the ground. “Dublin!” Vienna rushed to the tent door, flinging open the flap. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the yellow Zafara standing outside. “I thought I heard something.”
“You did,” he said, concentrating on cleaning off his sword.
It was then that she noticed the body lying several feet further back. She swallowed hard. “I see. Did you know him?”
Dublin shook his head. “I've never seen him before, but that doesn't mean much. He's not wearing either Milan's or Lucca's colors. What do you want to do?”
Vienna took a deep breath. “Wake my brother.”
Milan wasn't pleased to be drug out of his bed in the middle of the night. “You have better have a good reason for this,” the Royal Eyrie growled.
“I think it counts as a good reason,” Vienna said, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
“We're not talking any business until Nicolas gets here.”
Vienna nodded, settling into a chair. “I wouldn't dream of having it any other way,” she said.
Nicolas looked even less happy than Milan about being hauled out from a warm bed into a cold tent. “This is inexcusable,” the Skeith seethed. “I cannot imagine a single reason for this outrage.”
“How about this one?” Dublin asked, dropping a limp and quite dead surprise at Nicolas's feet.
Milan stared. “What is that?”
“That,” Dublin said, “is something that tried to sneak into the Princess's tent with several sharp daggers. He foolishly tried to take me out first.”
“Someone tried to kill Vienna?” Milan sat down, swallowing hard and his eyes wide in shock. “Why?”
Vienna closed her eyes in relief. The assassin had not been sent by her brother. She hadn't really thought that it was likely, but the suspicion had been there. Nicolas, she noticed, looked considerably less surprised.
“I'm not entirely sure he was after Vienna,” Dublin said, placing a blanket over the body.
“What?” Nicolas hissed.
“There was nothing really marking the tent as the Princess's. All it really had was an important look. It may be her tent was only chosen because it was the only one obviously guarded.”
Millan nodded. “My guards sleep inside my tent, so do Nicolas's. If someone was unfamiliar with the camp, they might have assumed it was mine.”
“Wait,” Nicolas said. “Why don't you sleep in the tent?”
Dublin gave the Skeith a long look. “Because the Princess is a Lady, and her brother charged me with protecting her.”
Nicolas flushed. “Oh. Right.”
“I can't take this anymore,” Milan snarled. “All this confusion, all this mistrust. I have an assassin in my very camp and I don't even know who the intended victim is!” The Royal Eyrie grabbed the map off the table and flung it to the ground. “Nicolas!”
“Yes, my king?”
“We attack at dawn tomorrow.” Milan snarled in fury. “If it's war my brother wants, it's war he'll get.”
William was ready to dash out of the tent, certain that Thomas was going to pull a weapon out of the drawer. The brown Blumaroo blinked in surprise when the green Moehog pulled out, not a weapon, but a sheet of parchment.
“Do you know where your pretty lady is?” Thomas asked William.
The brown Blumaroo gave the green Moehog a blank look. “I'm afraid I don't quite understand,” William admitted.
“I'd rather not name any names,” Thomas said. “And I don't want to know too much, because what I don't know, I can't slip. Do you know where she is?”
“Yes,” William said. “Or, at least I think I do.”
“Good.” The Moehog gave William and Darius a hard look. “What I'm going to tell you two, I don't want to leave this tent, except to tell our sweet Lady, and her ears alone. Do you understand me?”
At William and Darius's nod, Thomas continued, “It's Lucca. In the last couple weeks, we've been averaging one attempted assassination every four days. So far none of them have succeeded, thank the Fortunes.”
Darius whistled in amazement. “That's enough to keep one from sleep for about forever.”
Thomas nodded. “And it's showing. Lucca is getting more and more paranoid, and at first I thought a lot of it was simply exhaustion. But now that we've left the castle, instead of getting better, it's getting worse. He's getting to be unreasonable, expecting attack from any and everything, and expecting the impossible out of his men, and then punishing them when they can't help but fail.”
“Can't say that I blame him,” William admitted. “After about the second, I'd be pretty jumpy at every bump in the night.”
“It's affecting his judgment to the point where he can't really rule anymore,” Thomas admitted. “He insists that even his cup of water be tested for poison four times, and he's about given up on eating prepared meals. I fear my king is a broken man, even if he and Milan were somehow reunited – or even if Lucca becomes the only king of the country, I don't think he'd be capable of ruling it anymore. ”
“What do you want us to do?” Darius asked.
“I want you to carry a message to our Lady.” Thomas shook his head. “I want her to bring an end to all of this conflict, even if it means assuming the throne for herself. She's our only chance now for saving Brightvale before her brothers tear it apart from within.”
“She won't,” Darius stated, shaking his orange head. “She practically worships her brothers. The only way she'd accept the throne is if both Milan and Lucca are dead, and even then she'd probably try to find a way out of it.”
Thomas looked grim. “She may have that situation before she knows it. If Lucca and Milan don't mange to kill each other in this battle, it'll just drag on to the next, and then one after that, and then one after that until there are no more men in Brightvale to fight for them.”
The Moehog paused. “Give me time to write her a letter,” he said with a pleading look. “You two must be exhausted, and I'll leave orders that this tent is to remain undisturbed. I'll have food and cots brought so you can be comfortable. You can rest here; and then early tomorrow morning, when it's quiet, I'll help you leave the camp and you can find your way to our Lady.”
After the Moehog left and the promised comforts were brought, William turned to the orange Draik. “Darius, what do you think about all of this?”
“You mean Thomas's plan to make Vienna Queen?” At the brown Blumaroo's nod, Darius mused, “I'm not sure. No one knows Lucca better than Thomas, so I'm willing to take his word that Lucca's not fit to rule anymore. I'm not sure about Milan, though. So far I've not heard anything saying that Milan isn't fit to rule, and she'll never depose him if there isn't a very compelling argument.” He shrugged. “On the other hand, I haven't heard anything about Milan lately, and it's possible that he's in the exact same state as his brother. I do know that it's far less likely for Nicolas to be as honest with us as Thomas was.”
“I take it you and Nicolas don't get along?”
“Oh no, we've been friends for... well, longer than you've probably been alive. But Nicolas is very much a believer in the idea that kings are greater men than us lesser mortals; and the idea that a king can be wrong, especially a king that he helped raise, may be too unappealing for him to be able to admit to himself.”
“Do you think Milan is sending Lucca's assassins?”
The orange Draik appeared deep in thought. “No,” he said after a long pause. “There's not a dishonest bone in Milan's body. If he wanted Lucca dead, he'd have attacked openly. Nicolas, on the other hand...” Darius considered the idea. “I could see Nicolas doing that. If he thought that Milan was the rightful king, and that Lucca was an usurper, he would see it as defending his king.”
“We'll have to watch out for Vienna,” William said. “If she starts making a move for the throne, Nicolas will want to remove her as well.”
“That's assuming he hasn't already tried.” Darius gave William a serious look. “We've not heard anything from her since Milan kidnapped her. She could very well already be dead.”
With that depressing thought,William and Darius settled onto their respective cots and tried to sleep. From the sound of his breathing, Darius was having better success than William. The brown Blumaroo kept seeing her tight face as she gave him her ring, how her slim fingers had shook. She'd been terrified. “Please let her be safe,” he whispered into the open air, before slowly being overtaken by sleep.
The next thing the Blumaroo knew was that he was being violently shaken awake. “Wake up!” Thomas whispered in a hoarse voice. “Milan is attacking, you have to get out of here!”
William snapped awake, rolling out of the bed and grabbing the leather pouch that the green Moehog handed him. Darius was only slightly behind him, shouldering a leather pouch of his own. “This way,” the Moehog whispered, leading them out of the tent, and though a maze of tents, wagons, and wooden crates. Pointing to the woods, he said, “If you head though these woods, you'll find a small trail. If you head west along the trail, on the right some ways down is an old hunting shack, it should be far enough away from the battle to be safe.”
“Thank you,” William whispered.
“Find the Princess,” Thomas begged, clasping Darius into a tight hug. “She's our only chance now.”
Turning, the young Blumaroo and the older Draik fled into the safety of the forest.
To be continued...