Chapter 44: Judgement Day Part 2
Crown Prince Pelice stilled as his father clutched the sword that was buried in his chest. His father’s eyes were wide in shock as the pair locked eyes. All was silent, the guards, the people in the great square, all silent at what had just happened.
“Pelice… why…” his father the king croaked as blood dribbled out from his mouth.
“You are no longer fit to rule…” Pelice muttered as he withdrew his sword.
His father dropped to his knees clutching his chest before collapsing on the ground. Pelice had run him through with his sword, it won’t be long before he dies. Sarana had arranged that there would be no mages nearby, so he didn’t have to worry about healing magic.
Then he heard the sounds of swords being drawn as the royal guards finally snapped out of their shock.
“Halt! I am the King now, by right of succession.” the Royal Guards stilled for a moment. Legally this was a tricky situation, technically regicide was punishable with death but legally Pelice was also the king now.
The guards all stilled as indecision crossed their eyes. These were hand picked men from the knight core that were absolutely loyal to the king. Thus by their oath they cannot raise a hand against Pelice who was now technically the Crown Reagent.
“Lower your weapons, your king commands it.” Pelice said. At first none of the Royal Guards moved but slowly one by one they sheathed their weapons.
Pelice heard someone shout from the crowd behind him. He turned to see some of the people in uproar, but not all of them. There were many businesses and livelihoods that were ruined thanks to his father’s lockdown. In fact the great square was rather empty, overall it was quite a poor turnout. Most of the people who were completely disenchanted with his father’s rule didn’t even bother to turn up. So most of the people who were still loyal to the king were present.
“My father is not fit to rule! How many of our nation's businesses have collapsed because of this lockdown? And of Hearthstead? I discovered my father had ordered that attack, he wanted information on the beast so he kidnapped those he wanted and killed the rest!” Pelice said impassionedly.
The crowd calmed as his words echoed out into the square, their attention now on him.
“HE IS NOT FIT TO RULE! HE HAS FAILED IN HIS SACRED DUTY! I DID THIS NOT FOR AMBITION OR GREED! I DID THIS FOR THE GOOD OF THE NATION!” Pelice declared and the crowd looked at each other, their minds contemplating his words.
Pelice smiled internally as he slowly saw the people coming around. His father had made a lot of mistakes, he was becoming cruel and rash. Averlon did indeed need a new ruler…
You disappoint me brother…
Pelice felt a chill go up his spine as he heard a voice he thought he would never hear again. He looked forward to see a contingent of knights march down the square in formation. At the head of the formation was his sister, her flaming red hair and beautiful visage bare for the world to see.
The square was silent as they turned to look at her, then whispering started to echo out from the crowd
Yes Princess Cecilia…
I thought she died…
Is it really her?
Everyone could only stare as she marched up the stairs with the knight's up to where the Pelice was standing. As Pelice looked into his sister’s eyes he saw cold hate in her eyes. Could she know what he had done?
“You unjustly seal me away and now you murder our father? Now you lie to the people? You are a disgrace, Pelice…” Cecilia spat, her voice echoing out into the square.
The prince is lying?
Again the whispers, their voices echoing out…
“Who are you? My sister is dead!” Pelice sputtered trying to salvage the situation.
“More lies?” Cecilia said again, raising an eyebrow.
“Guards to me, detain this imposter.” Pelice commanded.
The Royal Guards drew their swords instinctively at the command and began moving towards Cecilia. In response the Knights all drew their weapons as well and pointed their blades at the guards.
“Not one more step, brothers… You will not lay a hand on our Queen.” Knight Commander Rober said evenly.
“What is this Rober? Have you gone mad?” the Lord Commander of the Royal Guard said as he stepped forward.
“Greetings, Sir Arthrun, it has been many years since we last spoke in the Royal Gardens.” Cecilia said with a smile.
This gave Lord Commander Arthrun pause. The other Royal Guards sensing their commander’s unease, lowered their weapons slightly.
Cecilia gave him a gentle smile as she held up her right hand and the knights all sheathed their weapons.
“I will not have this place stained by the blood of the loyal citizens of Averlon.” Cecilia said calmly.
Sir Arthrun looked around at the knights and finally he examined Cecilia’s face. Yes the likeness is certainly there, she would definitely look like that if she had aged four years. Most of all those red eyes, the ruby like hue of the royal family…
“Sheathe your swords.” Sir Arthrun commanded.
“What? SEIZE HER! YOUR KING COMMANDS IT!” Pelice roared.
“Sheathe your swords!” Sir Arthrun commanded again the moment he heard the sound of swords being redrawn.
“In our last meeting, I gave you something.” Sir Arthrun began.
“A red rose that was wilting and a red rose growing strong. You discarded a wilting rose and gave me the strong rose, wishing me health for my illness.” Cecilia replied as Sir Arthrun’s eyes widened.
After a moment’s pause he bowed his head.
“Welcome home Princess.” Sir Arthrun said and the other Royal Guards did the same.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING! I’LL HAVE YOUR HEADS!” Pelice screamed.
“You will be killing no more innocents, brother, your ambitions end today.” Cecilia said coldly.
“Princess, you spoke of treason and deception. That is a grave accusation…” Sir Arthrun said.
“I…” Cecilia began but she was cut off by Pelice.
“DID YOU NOT HEAR ME!” Pelice roared.
“I was content…” Cecilia began again but again she was interrupted by Pelice.
“TAKE HER!” Pelice screamed.
“SILENCE!” Cecilia snapped as her hand shot out now glowing and a magical gag appeared around Pelice’s mouth.
This made the Royal Guards stiffen, Cecilia had after all just attacked what was potentially the new King.
“It is you, Princess…” the Head Mage said, who until now was standing in the background.
Cecilia cast a gaze at Head Mage Georgia Merci, she was an aging woman, but a very powerful mage. She knew about Cecilia’s imprisonment and she helped design the cradle. Cecilia had Sarana speak to her beforehand. Georgia may have helped build the cradle but she was no fool.
At the end of the day she was still a veteran of the great game. Mages were also not blindly loyal, mages are academics and sceptics. Practical in the extreme and largely self serving individuals. Georgia knew which way the wind was blowing. Tralis was on the horizon and with the monster now on Cecilia's side backing the Prince was like betting your money on a donkey in a horse race.
“You still have that twitch in your wrist…” Georgia said.
“Well I have been missing four years worth of lessons.” Cecilia said as she smiled. It was a subtle threat to tell Georgia that Cecilia knew of her involvement.
“Then we must correct it later.” Georgia said with a nod as she hinted at Cecilia that she had Georgia's support.
“This is the Princess, I have trained her rigorously and her form still carries all the same bad habits. Sir Arthrun I sense no illusions and from the evidence available, I have no reason to doubt her identity.” Georgia said calmly.
“Hmmm, very well.” Arthrun replied with a nod.
“By the laws of Averlon, since the late king did not write a decree of ascension, the law defaults on the throne passing onto the oldest child. That child is Princess Cecilia Averlon, by the laws of the land she is the rightful ruler of this nation.” Georgia said evenly.
“The law is clear…” Arthrun said with a nod.
Meanwhile, Prince Pelice was still screaming into his gag.
“Thank you my lords and ladies. But first I must address the people, I am sure this is a great shock.” Cecilia said as she turned to face the crowd.
Cecilia proceeded to tell the people of the circumstances of her imprisonment, omitting the prophecy of course and instead spinning it as the King and Prince’s weakness. Cecilia revealed that many of the revolutionary reforms years ago were from her mind. This part was easy to believe as the reforms have been noticeably absent after she “died”…
I knew it…
The princess was behind the grain reserves…
Thank heaven for the grains reserve, my son would have died last year if not for that policy…
The coin serial numbers as well, my business barely had any counterfeit gold after that…
They locked her away because they were afraid of her?
Why wouldn’t they be?
Ever since the monster showed up they’ve been sending us the common folk into the forest to die!
When was the last time you saw any of the nobles risking their own necks?
Brutes, charlatans, oathbreakers, all of them!
“Good people please calm yourselves there is more…” Cecilia said as she went on to explain the circumstances of her escape, how her dear friend sprung her from her cage.
Wait! You allied with the beast?
My nephew was killed in that forest!
Now here comes the hard part but luckily Cecilia had prepared for this…
“Good people please listen…” Volnil said as he stepped out of the crowd.
“I have met the beast, he is different… he is not a mere dumb beast. One of my teams stumbled upon an old Elysian vault releasing him from his slumber. The first thing the team did was try to kill him, so he defended himself.
The princess has allied with it because we cannot defeat it, at least no without destroying and crippling this nation. The princess in her wisdom has brokered an alliance with the beast, the great beast of the Elysian woods will stand with Averlon against Tralis if they decide to march south.” Volnil said and this got the people’s attention.
Volnil was a well known figure, a veteran adventurer who once held the mithril rank. If even the leader of the adventurer’s guilds was endorsing this alliance then perhaps there is merit to this decision.
Then why did he continue to kill those that were sent into the forest?
It’s been months, people are still dying!
“Because we are trying to kill him. Even a dog bites when it is cornered. He has lived for a long time, since the days of the Elysian Empire in fact. He knows how humanoids fight monsters. If he lets any of our people return with information, he knows we will return better equipped and prepared to fight him.
He is no dull beast, he is wise and has seen many things across the millennia and most importantly he is wise and reasonable. I offered him a favourable deal and accepted.
If we fought to the death with him, where will be at the end of all that?
We will be left weak and frail.
When Tralis marches south we will be forced to become a vassal for Marina, Arune or Cathay. We would have no power at the bargaining table, Averlon as an independent nation will end. We would have nothing to resist the forces of the bandit king.
If the bandit king of Tralis wins and he storms this great city, it is your houses they will burn, your gold he will steal, your wives and daughters he will rape.
I WILL NOT LET THAT HAPPEN!” Cecilia declared, passion filling her voice.
I never wanted the throne
I could have left
Escaped somewhere far away
But this my home
This is the land of my birth
I will not abandon it
I will not abandon our home
I will do anything to ensure our land remains prosperous
If that means making bargains with monsters then so be it…
If making a bargain with the great beast of the woods means that our children grow up safe and happy then so be it
If it means the wives and daughters of this nation remain unsullied then so be it
If the hard earned gold of the good citizens remains in the rightful hands then SO BE IT!
My life, all that I have, ANYTHING for our home…
Cecilia paused as she looked at the citizens of Averlon. Their gazes locked on her person in awe… all according to plan…
Long live Princess Cecilia!
One of the citizens cried out from the crowd. Well at least that was what it looked like, this person was one of Sarana’s spies. A spy placed in the crowd to get the people in the right state of mind.
The old king is dead!
Long live Queen Cecilia!
The people shouted as one and Cecilia smiled as she held out her hands as if to catch their adoration...
It was almost too easy…