Brightvale History: The Two Kings - Part One
As always, many thanks to Schefflera, who brought grammatical sense to my ramblings!
Father was dead.
Vienna was aware of many other things going on at the moment, but for now the death of her father obscured everything else. The Royal Acara had always hated the custom and formality that always dictated how she must act and what she could and couldn't do. Now she was glad for it, because it meant she didn't have to make any decisions. Someone a hundred years ago had decided where she should stand, what she should say, and what she should wear; this meant she could be free to mourn her father in relative peace.
Her brothers, Milan and Lucca, did not have her luxury. Identical twin Royal Eyries, they'd always been equal in everything. No one knew which of the two was the eldest, and few could actually tell them apart. Vienna gazed as them though her black veil; she wasn't entirely sure if their mirrored expressions of grief were more for their father or for the fact that the inseparable pair would inevitability be torn apart with the contents of Father's will.
Vienna tore her attention away from her musings, and gave a wan greeting to the elderly orange Draik. “What is it, Darius?”
“It's time to read the will.” He offered her his arm, and a kind smile.
How could Darius be so gentle, Vienna wondered. His loss was nearly as great as her own, having been her father's closest adviser for as long as she could remember. With the reading of the will so close, Vienna couldn't help but suspect that Darius knew exactly who Father had declared his heir. “You know what it's going to say, Father always told you everything.”
Darius shook his head. “Not for this. I'm afraid that this time, I'm as in the dark as you are.” He ushered her into Father's reading room and offered a sturdy wooden chair that was softened with cushions. “Would you like something to drink, Princess? The coffee bar is fully stocked.”
“Coffee sounds lovely.” Vienna hoped that Darius didn't notice how her voice was on the verge of cracking. She blinked back tears, and tried to smile when he returned with a steaming cup of Spiced Pumpkin Coffee. She noticed her hands shaking when she tried to take a sip, and settled for holding the cup and watching the steam rise.
Lucca and Milan entered, hard for even Vienna to tell apart in their identical black outfits. It wasn't until Milan settled down into his own chair and spoke that she was sure. “Is this everyone?”
“I believe so, Your Highness, Darius said. Clearing his throat, he continued, “Let's begin. Allow the record to show that this reading is witnessed by Royal advisers Thomas Alès, Nicolas Beaumont; and the children of His Majesty King Azores and Queen Leiria, the Royal princes Lucca and Milan, and the princess Vienna.” He paused and then added, “and of course, myself, adviser Darius Évreux.”
Looking slightly flustered, Darius broke the wax seal on the will and opened it with fingers that weren't quite steady. The orange Draik cleared his throat a second time, and then read, “With failing health, I, Azores, King of Brightvale, do write down my last will and testament.
“I will start with the inheritance of my beloved daughter Vienna, who has always been forced to live in the shadows of her two brothers in my lifetime. She will retain the title of “Princess” and shall continue to be addressed as “Her Highness,” and be granted all the privileges that come with those titles. I leave to her the Duchy of Verdun, to be ruled in her own right, and full access to an account fund that I set up for her at her birth.
“Now that I've insured everyone won't walk out before Vienna's inheritance is dealt with..”
“Darius!” Nicolas protested.
“I'm just reading what it says here,” Darius said, waving the will. “Would you like to take over?”
After the disgruntled green Skeith settled back into his chair, the orange Draik continued reading. “I shall address the inheritance of my sons, Milan and Lucca. Since the moment of their birth, they have been inseparable, and I can not bear to force them apart now. To my sons I leave the kingdom, to be shared in a joint kingship. They shall be equal in all things, one can not do something that impacts the kingdom without the consent of the other.”
“Can he do that?” Thomas exclaimed.
“It's his kingdom,” Nicolas said. “The law says he can leave it to whomever he wishes.”
“Who on earth is going to inherit after them? While I have no doubts about Milan and Lucca's abilities, are we going to be a kingdom with two kings forever? And what if one of them has twins? Three kings, four?”
“No,” Darius said, clearly skimming though the rest of the document. “It says that the firstborn of the pair, no matter who the father is, will inherit the throne from both. So this is clearly meant to be a one time event.”
“This is going to take a lot of work,” Lucca said, obviously already planning. “The entire infrastructure is set up for one monarch.”
“I imagine between the five of us, we'll sort something out,” Nicolas said.
“Well, you can count me out,” Darius said, shaking his head. “I'm more than ready for retirement, I think I shall accompany Princess Vienna to Verdun and enjoy a respite by the sea.”
“I'm highly tempted to follow the lead of Darius,” Thomas admitted. “I'm not getting any younger, and this new regime may require mental gymnastics my mind isn't up for.”
“Please stay, Thomas,” Lucca said, a pleading look on his face. “If only until Milan and I get settled in.”
The green Moehog smiled. “How can I refuse?”
“Your lord Father was most gracious in giving you Verdun,” Darius said, looking out of the carriage window as the city rolled into view on the horizon. “Your brothers may have inherited the throne, but with a little improvement on your part, you could control the largest port in the country.”
“Do you think so?” Vienna asked in delight. “I had assumed it was just because he knew I loved coming here every summer.”
“I'm sure that played a part of it too, Your Highness.”
Vienna smiled at the orange Draik. She had been worried that the ride from the palace to her new home would be boring, with nothing to distract her from how much she missed her father. Fortunately for her, Darius had apparently determined that since it was no longer his job to advise a king, then amusing an orphaned princess was a fitting retirement.
“I will miss you,” she sighed. “You will come visit me often?”
“As soon as I've managed to settle into my new home,” he assured her. “I've gotten a lovely brick cottage by the sea, with Passionberry bushes lining the walkway, and several Florange trees. I promise as soon as they're ripe, I'll bring you a fresh picked basket.”
Darius was a good as his word. After she had been living in her new home for only six weeks, the orange Draik arrived with a heaping basket of not only Passionberries and Floranges, but several Grenelons and the largest Echtooh Melon Vienna had ever seen in her life.
“I have an even bigger Echtooh Melon at home,” the Draik admitted, “but I couldn't figure out a way to carry it without having to hire a wagon. My garden is good to me.”
“These look delicious,” Vienna said, selecting a Florange.
“Just wait until this fall,” Darius promised. “I'll bring you some Skeems.”
“Mmmm... I can't wait.” Vienna was going to add something else, but was interrupted when her steward, a businesslike red Chia, entered the dining room.
“I'm sorry, Your Highness,” he apologized, “but the Meridellian ambassador is here and insists upon seeing you.”
“The Meridellian ambassador?” Darius cocked a scaly eyebrow. “That's unusual.”
“I wonder whatever for,” Vienna mused. “Let him in.”
The ambassador proved to not be the portly Spotted Ixi that had been the Meridellian ambassador when Vienna lived at the palace, but instead a somewhat young and lanky brown Blumaroo.
“You are not Ambassador Remmington,” Vienna said.
The Blumaroo gave an impish grin, and a flourishing bow. “Master Remmington decided to retire when he discovered that there were now two Brightvalian kings. I was sent to replace him a month ago. William Warwick is my name.”
“Warwick,” Vienna mused. “Wasn't Queen Annith once called Annith Warwick, before she met the King?”
The ambassador nodded. “Guilty as charged. Queen Annith is the sister of my father.”
“I see.” Vienna paused, giving the Blumaroo a good look over. “What brings you all the way out to Verdun, ambassador? We're not exactly on the beaten track.”
“From what I hear, the improvements to your port will quickly change that,” he countered. “You seem to be well on your way to creating an economic market that will be a force to contend with. But you're right, that's not why I'm here.” He took a deep breath, his whole continuance shifting from confidant and polished to more more worried and unsure. “I came to ask you to come back to Wellford Castle. Everything is falling apart; your brothers haven't been seen together in weeks, and from what I've heard, they're not even speaking with each other.”
“What about Thomas and Nicolas?” Darius asked.
“As far as I can tell, they're doing everything they can to patch the kings up. But unless there's something drastic going on in the background that I don't know about, they're not making much progress.” The Blumaroo looked at Vienna. “You're their sister. They have to listen to you. The kingdom is falling down around them.”
“Why do you care?” Darius asked in a suspicious tone.
“Meridell shares an awful big border with Brightvale; and having your closest neighbor in a civil war tends to not bode well for anyone.”
Vienna nodded, feeling a twinge of worry about her brothers. “Very well. I will go to the palace.”
To be continued...