Brightvale History: The Two Kings - Part Four
A heavy pounding on the door woke the sleeping Royal Acara. The argument afterward between Évora and the person on the other side of the door guaranteed that she would remain awake.
“I absolutely forbid it,” the red Hissi hissed though the cracked door. “Her Highness is asleep, and with the stress she's been under, she needs as much of it as she can get. You can't just barge in here!”
There was a muffled reply, and then Évora replied that he needed to wait.
“My Lady,” the Hissi whispered. “I'm sorry, but you need to wake up. There's a messenger from your brother at the door and he insists that he needs to see you right away.”
“I'm awake,” Vienna admitted. “Very well, let him in.”
“But My Lady!” Évora looked shocked. “You're still in your nightgown!”
“If he insists on being in such a hurry, than he'll just have to live with that fact, won't he?”
“If you say so.” Évora didn't sound very convinced, but she went to the door and opened it.
“It's about time,” the Zafara snapped. “Princess, your brother commands that...” He abruptly broke off, realizing that Vienna was sitting at the foot of her bed, still in her white nightgown. He stuttered for a couple seconds, his yellow furred face flushing a brilliant shade of orange, and then turned his back so he couldn't see her. “Your brother... wishes that you accompany him to Seville.”
“Which brother is that?” Vienna asked. “I have two brothers.”
“I have no desire to go.”
“Please, Princess.” The Zafara's voice was pained. “I mean no disrespect, but I think your brother intends for you to go with him – whether you want to go or not.”
“I see.” Vienna considered her options for a second. “What is your name?”
“Thank you, Dublin. Return to my brother and tell him that you've passed along your message.”
“What should I tell him is your answer, My Lady?”
“Tell him that if he wishes for me to accompany him, then he will realize that I will need time to pack. Feel free to tell him that I'm still in my nightgown.” Even from behind, Vienna could see his blush grow deeper.
After the Zafara hastily left, Évora protested her decision. “Surely, My Lady, you're not going to let him drag you into this!”
“I don't want to go,” Vienna admitted. The Royal Acara's eyes narrowed. “But my brother will make me go no matter what, and this way still leaves me with dignity intact. On the bright side, this will at least make it so my brothers are in closer physical proximity to each other, if not actually any closer to agreement. If I'm lucky, maybe I can get them talking to each other again. I want you to stay here – someone is going to have to tell William and Darius what happened and where to find me.”
William stared at the imposing city walls of Brightvale's palace. Guards patrolled the walls, and the four great doors in were barred shut. The brown Blumaroo curiously wondered exactly how long those doors could stay shut before the food inside ran out.
“We'll never be able to get in,” Darius moaned. “Those walls are unassailable.”
“Four hours with a decent trebuchet aimed at the south wall,” William disagreed. “Maybe two with a really good trebuchet. The foundation is weak from a lack of maintenance on that side. Not that it matters, we're not going to use the walls to get in; we'll go in the same way I came out.”
“What did you do? Fly?”
William grinned. “Nothing so glamorous, I'm afraid. Did you realize that your capital has some very extensive sewer systems?”
The elderly Draik started. “You're joking.”
“You wish. However, if you can think of any alternative ways into the city, I'd love to hear them.”
Darius gave the Blumaroo a dirty look. “Vienna had better realize how much we have suffered for her sake.”
William laughed as he uncovered a sewer maintenance hole. “I'd offer to let you go first, but somehow I don't think you'd appreciate it.”
“Sweet Fortunes, it stinks down here!” The orange Draik gagged on the rather ripe stench.
“Well, it is the sewers. I recommend breathing though your mouth.”
“Thank you, Ambassador,” the elderly Draik rasped. “I stand in awe of your wisdom.”
“I live but to serve. It's not as bad as you think; there's an access tunnel here to our left that takes you straight to the palace baths.”
The pair traveled in silence until they reached a large metal grate. “This is the palace public baths,” Darius whispered.
William nodded. “We'll have to wait until they're empty, and then we can climb out, wash up, and find Vienna.”
The pair waited for what seemed like an eternity until all the sounds of people died down from the large room. “Let's go,” William whispered, grabbing the edges of the grate.
“You've forgotten something,” Darius accused. “Our clothes are still going to smell like the sewers.”
William shook his head. “I hid spares before I left. Some of the maids still had some of your old clothes from before you retired and went to Verdun.”
“You know, you are a lot cleverer than you look.”
“So I've been told.”
William would have loved nothing more than to spend a long time soaking sore muscles, but concern for Vienna made him hurry. All signs of their trip though the sewers removed, the brown Blumaroo and the orange Draik hurried to Princess Vienna's chambers.
The door flew open at William's second knock. “Thank the Fortunes you're here!” Évora exclaimed. “William, he took her.”
“Who took who?” Darius asked sharply.
The Hissi pulled them into the chamber, shutting and double checking the door before continuing. “After William left, Lucca left the castle with his supporters. Milan rode after him, and he took Vienna along by force. I think Milan thinks that Vienna is a spy for Lucca.”
William scowled. “That idiot. Did he hurt her?”
“No, but I think he might have if she didn't go along with him.”
“Does Lucca know?” Darius asked.
Évora shook her head. “I don't know. I don't know anything. She told me to stay here and tell you what happened.”
“I hope Lucca doesn't find out before we get there,” Darius growled. “He adores his sister, and the idea of anyone holding her by force, even their mutual brother, might cause him to come unhinged. If it turns into an actual battle between them, we'll never have peace until one of them is dead.”
“Where did they go?” William asked.
Darius sighed. “Back to the sewers?” he asked in a resigned tone.
“I'm coming with you,” Évora insisted.
William shook his head. “No. With luck Milan and Lucca don't know about Darius and me, but they do know you. If you get caught, they might decide to use you as leverage to make Vienna do what they want. Stay here and keep a low profile, and listen for a message from either Darius and me, or Vienna. We need eyes inside the palace too, and you're already in the perfect position to do that.”
The red Hissi nodded. “William,” she said as the Blumaroo and the Draik turned to leave. “Be careful. She worried a great deal about your safety after you left.”
William almost smiled. He'd been worried that Vienna had only talked to him because she needed him, and that once this was over she'd never notice him again. It was nice to know she really did care, if only a little.
“That siege is going to be difficult to break,” Nicolas admitted. “Lucca has the whole town surrounded.”
“We'll think of something,” Milan said, his face determined. “We have to.”
“Brother,” Vienna said. “Is it not traditional for a truce so that the heads can meet and discuss terms of surrender before actually launching any attack?”
Milan nodded, never removing his eyes from the large encampment of soldiers around the town.
“Your Majesty, you can't go down there!” Nicolas protested. “That would just be asking to be assassinated.”
“I'll go,” Vienna offered. “Lucca has to listen to me.”
Nicolas snorted. “Not hardly, Princess. It's far too dangerous.”
“Lucca would never hurt me!”
“I didn't say it was dangerous for you,” Nicolas spat. “I'm still not convinced that you're not his spy.”
“Nicolas, be nice to my sister,” Milan said.
“But Your Majesty,” Nicolas argued. “You have to admit...”
“I don't have to admit anything,” Milan snapped. The Eyrie paused, clearly considering his options. “Send Dublin. Tell him the terms are that I demand Lucca leave the town of Seville in peace, and to resign from his kingship and renounce any future claims to kingship.”
It didn't take long for the lanky Zafara to travel down to Lucca's camp, white flag head high. In a disappointingly (and in Vienna's mind, somewhat predictably) short time, he was returning back to Milan's camp.
“What did he say?” Milan asked.
“He... did not find your terms acceptable,” Dublin said, wincing. “Your brother then offered that if you stepped down from the kingship and renounced your claim on the throne, he would be more than happy to leave Seville in peace and return to his palace.”
“He what?” Milan snapped.
“Milan,” Vienna said, placing a warning hand on his arm. “It's getting dark; Lucca can't do anything tonight other than bluster. Use the time you have wisely.”
The Royal Eyrie took a deep breath. “You're right,” he admitted, “I can't afford to go stumbling around blindly. Nicolas, find out what you can about Lucca's supply trains, and how much food and water Seville has stored up. Vienna, I'll have a tent set up for you and your lady.” He paused, blinking. “Speaking of which, where is your lady?”
“She didn't bring one,” Nicolas observed with a suspicious look. “Smuggled her out of the castle to carry word to Lucca of our plans, perhaps?
“I didn't have time to pack for two,” Vienna said, glowering at the Skeith. “Évora is still at the palace. But it is no matter, I'm sure I'll be able to manage on my own.”
“You can't be left alone,” Milan protested. “It's not safe.”
“Then Dublin can come be my protector,” Vienna said. “You seem to trust him.” The Royal Acara hid a smile as the Zafara blushed at the memory of their last encounter.
Milan nodded. “I see no problem with that. Dublin, help my sister get set up for the night, and then after she's gone to bed and is safe, come to my meeting tent. I'm going to want your input on several matters.”
“May I ask you a question, Princess?” Dublin asked as he carried her traveling trunk.
Vienna sighed. “Because my brother trusts you, and you are not Nicolas.”
“I'm afraid I didn't quite follow that,” he admitted.
“Nicolas is doing his best to convince my brother that I'm spying for Lucca. I halfway expect that right now he's telling my brother to not eat with me anymore, because I'm going to poison his drink, or I'm going to use my fork to stab him to death.”
Dublin frowned. “A fork wouldn't be sharp enough, you'd have to use a serving knife. With our forks, at best you'd be able to blind him – but even that would take good aim and an exceptionally oblivious victim.”
“It was an example, Dublin,” Vienna sighed. “The point is, Nicolas is doing his best to make my brother not trust me anymore, and the only defense I have is other people he trusts vouching for my innocence.”
Dublin sighed. “I'd better move my cot then.”
“I know Nicolas, Princess.” Dublin explained. “If he is really worried about you being a threat, you'll just disappear in the night. That will be much harder to do with me sleeping right outside your tent door.”
To be continued...