Tale of Two Crowns (Part 1)
The Empyrean palace was vivid with sounds, servants and nobles quickly shuffling about its halls. The divine gateways had resurfaced and ignited, revealing the way back to Verra. The prince walked alone, watching his feet to avoid being spoken to. He was deep in thought, every plot he had set against his mother had failed, all he could hope to do is keep her sated with alcohol, forcing her to the confines of her chambers. He stopped walking as another set of feet entered his field of view. The prince raised his head slightly to see one of his closest friends, a dwarf by the name of Ludrin.
"Well, would ye look at that, a prince blessed by the divines and tainted with corruption!" The Dwarf said, stroking his straggly dark brown beard. "How goes yer plottin’?"
"Ludrin, have you still yet to learn social cues? A person walking with their head down, more than likely does not want to be spoken to." The prince nodded as two nobles scurried by, giving him quick bows. "Follow. Now!" He said sharply to the dwarf, who simply chuckled like mad, imitating the nobles quick bow.
"Right away, your royalness." Ludrin sneered in an empyrean accent, closely following the young elf.
The two entered The King's solarium, no one was allowed to enter without the Prince or Queen present. The prince sat at his father's desk, the empyrean crest carved into the sturdy wood. Ludrin sat on the desk, picked up a chalice and examined it.
"Crap work! I coulda done better with me eyes closed ya know" he exclaimed slamming the chalice back into its place.
"How did you get into the palace, Ludrin?" The elf said, frustratedly rubbing his temples.
"I walked through the damn gate like a normal person would, whaddya mean 'How did you get in the palace'. Sometimes I wonder why I'm not in charge." The dwarf muttered the last bit under his breath.
"What is so important that it couldn't wait until we met in Verra?"
"Wow Paizu, I'm deeply offended that ya think I can't just want to visit me friend in his lovely home." Ludrin placed his hand over his heart and looked saddened, Paizu simply glared unamused.
"Well, If ye must know, Aodhan is claiming he'll go asquealing if ya don' triple the gold ye already gave him. I'm sure you know what comes after that. Killing a king is treason around these parts." He spat into the chalice as both he and Paizu looked up at the portrait of King Artorius.
"I still find it amazing how much we look alike, the only trait I got from Mother was hair color and priesthood I suppose." Paizu said, stroking his long blonde hair a bit.
"Did ya not hear me, boy? Aodhan will expose yer pla—"
Paizu stood up, his fiery orange eyes as if they were boring holes into the dwarf's skull. The elf, over 30 years his junior, leaned in close and spoke in knives.
"Let him, and I will end him where he stands. The full power of the divines will set down and smite him in his place.” He stood straighter and a menacing smirk crossed his lips. “I will not give way to such baseless claims. It's the word of a commoner against the word of a grieving royal."
Ludrin leaned back as even he could see the slight red haze forming along the boy's eyes. He stroked his beard and nodded.
"Alright, but who is in control now?" The dwarf asked. Paizu once again sat in his father's chair and shook his head, pushing what evil lied within him back from whence it came.
"I am. I am always in control Ludrin!" Paizu said, his skin quickly getting a bit paler as the dwarf slowly nodded and the red haze faded.
"How does one so loved and cared for get so twisted?"
"One realizes that they are just a pawn in their mother's eternal escape from destruction. All she cares for is self-preservation, and I refuse to be a pawn when I am a future king. As for the Aodhan situation, his best bet would be vowing his loyalty now, for if he betrays me once we are in Verra, I will show no mercy and I'll have to full weight of the looming darkness at my back." with that statement the prince left the dwarf sitting on his father's desk and left the solarium. "Let the dwarf out of the palace. He reeks of strong liquor." he said to one of the guards then continued on his original task.
He reached his Mother's chamber and opened the large door. There on the large canopy bed in the center of the room she sat, several servants near her, one of which had a tray with more than a few chalices on it. She looked over to her son and stood.
“Would you all please leave us the room.” She spoke softly, returning the bow the servants gave her. They left hurriedly and Queen Makinoji spoke yet again. “You look pale, have you been eating? She asked walking towards the boy and reaching out to stroke his cheek, but he shied from his mother’s hand.
“Stop that!” He shouted, stepping away from her.
He always felt weak in her presence. She wasn’t like his father, who had always challenged him, she was manipulative in the way of showing him love and affection. when he was younger his hand was always entwined with her’s. He never left her side.
“Stop what? What have I done?!” She was a bit taller than him, so she crouched to his level, grabbed both of his hands and looked him directly into his eyes. “What can I do? You’re holding me hostage, which will prove nothing! You are weak child, not worthy of the crown you forced your father to vacate! You orchestrated all this, so stop sulking and tell me why you’ve come!”
The boy stared. He looked as if he were about to break down in tears and hug his mother, begging her forgiveness. His momentary lapse of judgment passed and he ripped his hands from her’s.
“No, no! Enough… The Lords wish for you to appoint a Regent tonight. I personally favor Lord Iolas—”
The Queen grabbed the boy’s face and pulled him in close, her deep emerald eyes just as fiery as his. They stared at each other for what felt like hours before she broke the silence.
“I will choose a regent as and when I see fit. The lords may complain all they wish but I am the sole ruler of the Empyreans for now, and that is your doing.” She said releasing his face, pushing him back gently. She walked back to her bed, grabbing one of the chalices and sipping the wine from it. “Was that all Pai?”
The boy’s face grew red with anger, but he dare not challenge her in earshot of the Eochaid. He nodded whilst spinning on his heels and leaving her chamber. Before he could even realize it he found himself walking the palace grounds. Even out here there were servants and nobles buzzing about. Paizu kept his head down, his anxiety grew. His mother had become an unexpected variable in all of his plans. If she too decided to venture to Verra they would be forced to give up their claim to the Empyrean throne. Paizu’s head came into contact with something sturdy. He looked up to see an Orc standing before him.
“Ah, your highness. I apologize how irresponsible of me.” The orc adjusted himself and continued to look down at the young prince. “Are you injured sire?”
The Orc had a long black ponytail and stood much taller than the uncommonly short elven prince. For some reason, the orc had caught his eye. Paizu wasn’t sure of the feeling per say, but he knew it did not bode well for his plans. Even with that knowledge, he couldn’t contain himself.
“I am fine, are you alright?” He asked, adjusting his tunic and crown.
“My lord, I mean no offense, I am a boulder and you are but a pebble.”
Paizu smiled at this retort, a genuine smile which was rare for the prince. As the orc tried to step past him, the prince quickly blocked his path.
“You know me, but I do not know you. May I ask your name?” The prince asked, tilting his head slightly.
The orc laughed, the sound resonating through each of Paizu’s bones, the young prince was all but melted.
“Bazur, my lord. One of the envoys tasked with protecting the Warchief whilst he is here in your palace.” Paizu nodded, he needed to end the conversation now.
“Well, it was lovely meeting you Bazur. I have things to attend to, as I’m sure you do also. May our paths cross again.” The prince said stepping past him.
“Yes, and maybe next time it won’t be by error.” The Orc gave a devilish grin and a quick wink that seemed to be filled with seduction.
As soon as he rounded the corner and was out of sight, the prince pressed himself against the wall and sat breathing heavily. What naïve mess had he just gotten himself into? With an orc no less, A MALE Orc!
Who could he talk to about this, what would he even say? He got up wandering the halls a bit, before finding himself in front of his mother’s chamber once more. He knocked gently.
“Enter!” As he opened the door and walked in his mother stood shocked.
“So you know how to knock now I see.” She said taking a long sip from her glass of wine. “What mess have you caused now child?”
The prince told the Eochaid to take leave and closed the heavy wooden door behind him.
“Ah, so you’re finally going to off me like you did your father?” The queen chuckled a bit still sipping her wine.
“Mother… I’ve created an issue I can’t handle.” Paizu turned to her, his cheeks tearstained and eyes reddened.
Makinoji knew her son to be many things. He was ruthless, manipulative, intelligent, truly kind to everyone who wasn’t in his way. However, in all his life, she had never known him to cry.
“Tell me what pains you?”
“An orc by the name of Bazur. Has… caught my eye…” The prince said hanging his head in shame.
“Bazur, that is commonly a male name in the orcish tongue, is it not?” Her eyes narrowed as well as saddened by the mention of orcs.
“He is male… I…” he couldn’t even think to finish his sentence.
“When did you meet this, Bazur?” She questioned, pouring herself more of her wine.
“Today, in the garden. I accidentally bumped into him.” The prince exclaimed sitting beside her on her bed.
“Then the Ren’kai plot against your throne my son. No one will ever truly love you, they’ll always want you for something you have and that my son, is the curse our namesake bares.” She lifted her glass upwards as if giving a toast before downing whatever remained within in.