The sound of their voices reverberated throughout the room, fiercely debating a matter as they often did. Father sat cornered by his Chancellor, Marshall, and Steward. The triad of problems he once called them.
Walking forward I took my place seated in front of the weary Duke.
It was the highest and most respectable rank beside a monarch of any rank. It came with high pay and booming prestige, authority and respect. Unfortunately, these privileges did not apply to me. I was the bastard of the Duke. Had I not been his bastard, giving me a bed to rest my head would be considered generous in the Kingdom.
Luckily, my father, my liege was different and this was not his reason for denying me those rights. I couldn't exercise the full potential of my seat mostly because of my age. But his favour shone through the stigma of being born out of wedlock.
Although, the councillors had a bone to pick with the idea of a fourteen-year-old bastard child holding such a position; regardless of how little power I got from it.
"You summoned me, father?"
He smiled. Looking truly relieved at my arrival. The Duke was a strong looking middle-aged man. Strikingly cold blue eyes, dirty brown hair, and a well-groomed beard.
He seemed to melt into his chair as he spoke "Ah, Rainald, at last. Please, you are the tiebreaker in this…" he seemed to stare at the councillors accusingly before continuing "pointless debate" he rolled his eyes, obviously tired of what I could assume must have been a long discussion.
I glanced at the three now squeamish looking councillors.
The Steward looked particularly stressed. "Sir, I only worry for the state of affairs in your domains. Certain actions, such as the one you are proposing could throw a wrench in the stability of things and many unpleasant cutbacks may have to be made to keep up"
The Steward was a lanky middle-aged man with a forgettable visage. He was charged with taking care of the Duchy's accounts, making sure taxes are not being flinched off and overall managing the expenses of everything that needs to be expensed. From what little I had observed of the man, he took great pride in his job and did his work diligently. Almost too diligently.
"God damn it!" the Duke face furrowed with intense displeasure "Edward, I did not call anyone of you here to ask if I could make this decision. I asked you lot here this bloody morning to carry out said decision. Hell!"
"You can very well go ahead with the decision. But we are your councillors, for this reason, we must advise you on the foreseeable consequences of your decisions, good or bad" The Marshall said, saving Edward from being berated any further.
Despite her disgustingly obvious affection for Edward, I respected the woman. Mathilda was a strong and very attractive woman. Auburn hair, pink lips, and a figure to make a man fall twice. Young and filled with vigour, she caught the attention of the Duke years ago when she volunteered to fight in his war. Or so I was told when I asked if she was my mother. She was a general and overall leader of all the Dukes armies and navies. She mostly represented the military's interests, be it recruitment or monitoring morale. She had fought beside and commanded the armies in wars over the years if the scar across the side of her face was not enough of an indication. And had earned her place beside the Duke.
Getting sick of being left in the dark on the matter, I turn to the Chancellor and ask
Desmond was a very handsome young adult, no older than twenty-seven I could say with certainty. His charming and lecherous ways and easy going attitude did well to hide his deft in diplomacy and intrigue. I had no idea where father had picked him up from but it was easy for me to find him despicable as he bedded women all around the court, from nobles to servants, the man had no end to his lechery, daring to even make attempts at Dagena, my half-sister.
He grunted a response through a yawn, looking to me as he wiped a tear
"What?" he sounded thoroughly annoyed and drained. He had not spoken much since I arrived but he must have made his opinion clear hence my arrival.
I frowned, I was not finding it particularly pleasurably initiating a conversation with him of all scoundrels. But the others were deep-seated in arguing it out and father seemed ready to blow up and yet ready to go to sleep.
"Please fill me in, what are we meant to be discussing?" I said gently, I may despise the man but I was still me. Not only was I not going to stoop to being petty, but I also could not afford an enemy of his calibre as of yet. I had yet to begin garnering the true potential of my seat.
He scratched the rough looking stubble and yawned some more "Your brother, Orson."
I waited for some more information but he seemed to be done talking if his folded arms and closed eyes were any indications.
I clicked my tongue and pinched him. Hard. He yelped out and glared at me. I returned his glare with full force and demanded more information.
He looked at me with displeasure once more before scoffing and averting his gaze "Your brother won his maiden battle, no?" I gave a curt nod and gestured for him to move on. "The Duke wants to throw him a celebration party, he also wants to invite the nobles and a few distinguished commoners" He stopped to let out yet another yawn making me yawn as well, damn him. "Mathilda thinks it's too frivolous and that if he is throwing a feast for his son he should be considerate to the soldiers who fought beside him to keep him alive and win the battle."
I frowned, that sounded fair. But what could you offer a soldier other than coin and medicine for his troubles? "What is she suggesting?"
Desmond looks down at me and answers "That they be invited as well."
That was impossible! There were over several thousand men in the Duchy's military. To invite them all would be next to insane.
Desmond continues "And Edward sees it from her side as well. The military would not be overjoyed to be ignored while the rest of us celebrate a 'perverse' version of their sacrifice" his eyes shift cautiously towards the Duke before he leaned in and whispered, "He even mentioned the possibility of a revolt from the military and the commoners as the accounts go into deficits."
I cringed as I heard the word 'revolt'. That certainly must have not gotten a pleasant reaction from father. The man thought himself the man of the people. At times he was, but only politically. In truth, he was a noble as any other, just a bit smarter.
I could certainly see how the deficits could worsen the situations but father did not have to participate in the war at full. Wars of Kings did not require the participation of all their subject's armies, only levies. The ongoing war was an invasion of a neighbouring kingdom; The Kingdom of Asthum. The King of Saia wanted the flourishing western lands in a bid to increase his power. Of course, the King disguised his intentions as one to decrease the poverty rate in the Kingdom as current. Many commoners rose to volunteer and better their situations. But they were just cannon fodder.
But father sought the prestige and honour that would fall on him after the war was over, win or lose. It would make him a shiny candidate for King.
"What do you think, Desmond?"
"Me?" He smiled. "I think your father already knows his options. But the nobles that are meant to be at the party would certainly help his efforts and ambitions once they get acquainted. I say he should go for it, there isn't much to lose…" he smirks "except his head of course"
I shook my head and turned away. Desmond was hard to predict. One moment he was a bumbling buffoon and then the next he was an utter psychopath. If I had studied more on psychology in my past life, I would certainly declare him mentally unwell.
"…Then tell me what you would have me do then, Mathilda, eh? You know well enough what you ask is impossible. The most I could do is raise their rations." I hear father say. Sounding drained and desperate.
Feast or no feast. At first look, the answer seems obvious and it wouldn't be much of what to stress about. But the feast was not just a stage to front his sons battle prowess. But a game to garner as many nobles to support his venture. Dukes, Counts and even Knights alike. As many as he could get to support him. The ruling King's dynasty had been in power for almost two centuries. His window of opportunity was closing. The war was like a godsend. I provided a great cover to assassinate the King as well as gain favour among the nobles of the Kingdom.
He seemed like the type to take every opportunity. Perhaps that's what got him this far this quick. But his pace was scary and drew attention. If he failed to handle it all properly he would most certainly end up dead, either by the hands of the hired mercenaries or by command of the King. And unfortunately, my life was still tied to his.
"Father, I think I may have a solution to your problems"