Brightvale History: The Two Kings - Part Twelve
Dublin walked slowly down the not-quite-finished hallway of the new palace. The yellow Zafara regarded the construction with curious eyes. He approved of Vienna's decision to build an entirely new capitol for herself, instead of trying to repair the ruin that was now known once again by its original name of Wellford Castle. The yellow Zafara approved even more of the defensive fortifications she'd given her uncle free reign in designing, especially the tall archers turrets and the thick rounded walls that should be able to withstand even the most powerful of trebuchets.
Dublin paused when his cane wobbled on a floor stone that wasn't quite smooth. The title of Queen's Champion was considerably less glamorous when one had to gimp about. He took reassurance that the Royal physicians promised that he would be able to walk unaided by next spring, and running by autumn after that. Few things were less imposing than a man who fell while drawing his own sword because his sword and cane became tangled, sending him to the floor in a disgruntled heap. Not that Dublin had ever done that.
At least, not that he'd admit to.
The yellow Zafara finally reached his destination, a comfortable office tucked safely in the heart of the finished part of the castle. Cocking an ear, he realized that Vienna was in a meeting with someone, and decided to settle down and rest on a handy wooden bench instead of interrupting her.
“But Your Majesty,” a nasal-toned voice protested. “You gave the county of Noricum drought tax relief this year, why are my own lands not given the same?”
“Noricum got the lower tax rate because they're suffering from a drought,” Vienna replied. “The dikes burst and they didn't have water for irrigation all summer. Their crops were abysmal, and they didn't even grow enough to feed everyone who lives inside the county. Your lands, on the other hand, had a bumper crop and made a huge profit.”
Vienna must be speaking to the Count of Tyrol, Dublin decided. He remembered hearing that the purple Draik had gotten into a bit of a row with the Royal tax collectors. First he'd argued that Vienna wasn't the Queen, and that he'd only pay taxes to representatives from either Milan or Lucca; and then when the local Duke (who had been one of the first to join Vienna's forces) had threatened to request Vienna strip the rebellious Count of his nobility, the Draik had agreed to pay taxes, but since then had done nothing but argue about the amount.
Dublin's solution had been to suggest to the Queen that until the count paid his taxes, there would be no government funding for things like road work, bridge repair, and all the other little things that the government usually paid for. Vienna had refused, arguing that the people who lived on the Count's land shouldn't be punished for having an idiot for a Lord, which was probably why she was in her office, arguing with the Count now.
Dublin didn't think that the Count's approach was the best one. No one looked good when the argument ended with, “Because I'm the Queen, and I said so.” It would only either lead to the Count looking like a fool, or being stripped of his nobility and a new count promoted in his place.
“I do not think Your Majesty is being fair.”
Dublin shook his head. Some people just didn't know when to quit.
“Life isn't fair,” Vienna countered. “Sometimes we've just got to deal with it.”
Vienna had apparently had enough. “Because, I'm the Queen and I said so. This audience is ended.”
“Checkmate,” Dublin muttered, rolling his eyes. He was careful to keep his face bland as the purple Draik stalked out.
“What are you looking at?” the Draik hissed, glowering at Dublin.
“Just waiting my turn,” the yellow Zafara said in an easy tone.
“Dublin, is that you?” Vienna said, brightening. “Come on in. I just sent Évora to go find William a little while ago. We can all have lunch together.”
“I hoping he'd be here,” Dublin admitted. “I've got a letter for him.”
“So now you're not only the Queen's Champion,” William teased, walking up behind him, “you're the postman too?”
Dublin made a face at the brown Blumaroo. “No. I got a letter that was confusing, and I noticed that you had one from the same person, so I was hoping yours would shed some light on the situation.”
William looked confused. “From who?”
“Your Aunt, the Queen of Meridell.” Dublin handed over the letter, made of thick parchment and sealed in red wax.
William took the letter and broke the seal, quickly skimming over its contents. His reaction said that the contents of the letter were not quite what he expected. “What?” the Blumaroo gasped.
“What is it?” Évora asked, looking slightly alarmed.
“I've been recalled back to Meridell,” William said, eyes wide. “My aunt writes that the political situation in Brightvale is too volatile, and that she wants me out.”
“That doesn't make any sense,” Vienna argued. “Brightvale is peaceful now.”
“Meridell couldn't get a lot of news during your brothers' war,” Évora pointed out. “Not to mention, the county of Tyrol is right on their border. He could be stirring up trouble.”
“That answers why I got my letter,” Dublin said. At Vienna's questioning look, he explained, “My letter was a request for a Brightvaleian representative to come to Meridell and explain the official situation. I couldn't figure out what they were talking about.”
“Brightvale is stable,” Vienna insisted. “William, you can't leave.”
“I don't have much choice,” the Blumaroo said, looking distressed. “I need a job. If my aunt gets too upset with me, I'll be unemployed until she decides to forgive me. No one hires you if you're out of the King and Queen's favor.”
“I can give you a job,” Vienna insisted.
William gave her an amused look. “Vienna, I can't very well be the ambassador to Brightvale, from Brightvale.”
“You could be a Royal Adviser,” Évora suggested. “You've already been doing that job anyways, for all practical purposes.”
William gave the Hissi a halfhearted smile. “You really want to keep me around, don't you?”
“William,” Vienna said in a soft voice. “If you'd accept, you could be Prince Consort.”
The brown Blumaroo turned to look at her, his eyes wide.
“Dublin, Évora.” Vienna's voice became much more crisp. “I need some time to talk to William alone.” She pointed a lilac furred finger to the door. “Out.”
“If that conversation goes the way I expect it will, then I might go in person to Meridell and explain the situation, while simultaneously inviting their Majesties to come see Brightvale for themselves,” Dublin mused as he and the red Hissi went further down the hall.
“That will make Vienna happy,” Évora said. “I know she's been wanting to meet Queen Annith.”
“It's good to see Vienna doing better,” Dublin admitted to Évora. “After she became Queen, I was worried she was going to fall apart. Locking up her brothers into that dungeon was difficult, she practically worshiped them until they both went crazy.”
“She's a stronger person than you give her credit for,” Évora said.
“True,” Dublin said. “But even strong people break under too much stress.”
“Sometimes they don't,” the red Hissi said with a shy smile. “You're proof of that.” She looked pointedly at his cane. “How much weight do you put on that?”
“Not much,” he admitted. “It's mostly there for balance.”
“Then here,” she said, offering him her arm. “Let's see how much you really need it.”
Laughing, the yellow Zafara tucked his cane under his other arm, and carefully stepped though to the courtyard, trying to put as little weight as possible on Évora.
He stopped as they reached the middle of the courtyard, looking at the parts of the castle that were almost done. The full castle itself wouldn't be finished for years, but the basic residential areas were already finished. Dublin had gotten a chance to see what Baron Tomar had planned for the castle, with strong stone curtain walls, and a keep similar in design to his own castle where Vienna had found refuge during her brothers' war. Tomar took the safety of his niece nearly as seriously as Dublin, something the Zafara found encouraging.
“Impressive what they've managed to do with the castle already, isn't it?” Évora asked, looking with him. “I think after building for Tomar, there isn't anything his architects couldn't build.”
“I hope we can build a Brightvale that's as stable as this castle,” Dublin admitted. “We've had too many civil wars as it is.”
“I think we've done a fair bit already,” Évora said. “With the exception of one Count, all of the nobles and the people are united behind Vienna. As long as she can keep them working towards a common goal, she'll bring the country closer together than it has in a long time.”
“She's good at that,” Dublin admitted to Évora with a smile. “I wouldn't say all of our troubles are over, but I think life in Brightvale is going to only get better.”