(I think that about a month is long enough putting off this update. I can’t put into words all the argh that I have over the first section, but I quite like the second, so I figured that putting them both together would ease the transition. Yes, I know that this is a pretty passive narrative chunk. I want to break it into portions to tell this time better, but I haven’t quite been struck by inspiration recently to fix it. So I’m just going to jump over it for now and come back to it later on. Thanks for bearing with me!)
Time passed. As the King’s closest adviser, the Grand Duke assumed the role of steward while Edmond was growing up. With the help of his oldest allies, they began to implement changes that they’d long desired to make during the reign of King Richard.
And all the while, Edmond grew.
Trying to save face for the kingdom, Tatsuo hid the boy prince away. His companions were children of other nobles who lived and worked in the nearby capitol of Castleguard. As soon as those children realized that their fathers treated Edmond different, a strange rift formed in their friendships. Overt maltreatment would have been unthinkable, yet gradually the children picked up on their parents’ critical attitudes and subtly began to ostracize him.
Edmond found solace with the children of the maids and servants. The older ones held him with some degree of awe and were not much fun to play with (it’s difficult to play a proper round of Dragon’s Hoard when none dare to challenge the dragon). The youngest ones had not yet learned that they were different from him and adored any sort of companionship.
His boyhood was a melding of bargaining for the respect of his peers, appeasing his those older than him, and basking in the attention of those younger. Thus Edmond grew, out of sight and mind of the nobility – that is, until he entered adolescence, ceased attempting to please his elders and began to forge his own path.
The Grand Duke had a minor heart attack when he realized that the time was soon approaching when his grip on the throne would be forcibly removed when the dreaded common heir came of age. At that point, he and his associates began to observe the young prince a bit more closely.
In contrast to his father’s clear precision and decisiveness, Edmond was relaxed and carefree. He had his moments of almost apathetic laziness towards his studies and was prone to forgetting important details – like the names of key dignitaries even as they stood before him, or vital components to welcoming rituals that had stood for generations. He was undisciplined, selfish, and procrastinated. However, when he got an idea or plan in his mind he was incredibly resourceful and determined to get his way and make it happen. Unfortunately, those plans typically turned out to be extravagant parties and outings with his friends.
The only topics of his studies that really interested him were fencing, oratory, and horse riding. His commitment to fencing was lackadaisical at best. On the other hand, his gift with words was unprecedented. Even the most biased of his tutors conceded his talent and would have had high hopes for his future as a political mind, if it were not for his entrenched habit of disagreeing with everything his political tutor said. His contrariness and arrogance at such a young age outwardly enraged and inwardly terrified them.
It was after 15-year-old Edmond gave his political tutor a verbal dressing-down on the assumption of nobility’s right to rule (wherein Edmond and his tutor bellowed facts and positions at the top of their lungs and disturbed a meeting Tatsuo was holding with the visiting ambassador to the South – a meeting that took place two floors down) that the Grand Duke conferred a council.
Barons, counts, and lords from shore to shore who took every opportunity to bicker with each other were in unilateral agreement: this young princeling was dangerous. His roots made his diametrically opposed to everything that the Northern kingdom stood for, and once he’d set his mind there would be no changing it.
There was no way around it. Edmond would have to be dealt with.
Making contacts with an anti-monarchal band of rebels, Tatsuo and his council began to make arrangements – because ‘plotting’ sounded too conspicuous. A considerable amount of money changed hands. Whispers and rumours began to flit aback and forth. Voices were heard in dark alleys discussing Edmond’s ability (or lack thereof) to rule.
And all the while, he grew.
Footsteps clacked against the cold ivory marble of the Grand Entryway. Louder footsteps following close behind.
A frustrated sigh echoed in the empty room as the first set of footsteps quickened, then were silenced by the thick ebony mantle covering the floor. The other set of footsteps paused before turned the corner into the Entryway.
The Viscount Apophis, a slender, young man whose gentle footsteps displayed a certain amount of grace, precision, and forethought, cursed under his breath. He dipped his head and a long mane of silver blonde hair cascaded over his shoulders. To any other noble, the movement of his hair would be a symbol of his distance from the throne and general ineptitude. To him and to a certain atypical royal, it was a symbol of defiance of blood archetypes and refusal to bow to social pressure to hide who he truly was.
They were great friends.
A brilliant smile illuminated Edmond’s moon-pale face. He quirked an eyebrow and gave the other youth a penetrating gaze with his equally pale blue eyes. “Were you trying to hide from me?”
Letting out a measured breath, Apophis met Edmond’s stare with his own stormy gray eyes. “Why would I do a foolish thing like that?”
The younger of the two frowned, folding an arm across his cerulean silk tunic, pressing a finger to his chin and feigning deep thought. He tapped a foot shod in the softest handmade black leather boots this side of the Wildlands. “This is simply an educated guess from a brilliant -not to mention dashing- king-to-be, but because you’re trying to avoid giving the toast at my pre-coronation ball this fine evening?”
“Why don’t you give it, sire – you’re the better orator, and I’m certain that you enjoy hearing yourself talk.” Apophis shot back, tilting his head to the side.
The morning light shone through the stained glass lancet, bathing the room in a myriad of dancing colours. The changing hues danced off the polished hilt of Edmond’s ever-present royal long sword – but who were they kidding, Apophis was the better swordsman, anyways. Apophis came from a long line of sword makers. His family produced the strongest, sharpest swords in the kingdom – and when the kingdom was primarily known for weapons, that was saying something.
Edmond put a hand to his heart dramatically, bemoaning, “You wound me deeply. My best and dearest friend, abandoning me on the very eve of my ascent to the throne. Who would have thought?”
“Betrayed in his prime-“
“Cut off at the knees-“
Apophis’ sharp retort stopped Edmond in his melodramatic tracks.
“Don’t… don’t talk like that. It’s not fitting.” The older youth replied eventually, tossing up his hands with a sigh.
Edmond stared at him for a moment. “You, sir, are one odd duck.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“A duck without a sense of humour.”
“Yes, I’ve heard.”
“A humourless duck, Apophis. Whatever am I to do with a humourless duck for a best friend?” Edmond clapped him on the shoulder, a teasing grin emerging on his face.
“You’ll have to make do, sire.” Apophis feebly attempted to match his smile and patted him on the back of his hand. “Don’t you have a meeting to get to?”
“Fie. The organizer – Mrs. Tibbets will slay me. Yes, I do.” Edmond drew himself together and started to pull away. “The toast?”
Apophis sighed. “I’ll do it. But don’t expect a orative masterpiece.”
“Coming from you, I never do.” With that, he turned tail and darted down the hall with a cheeky grin, his raven cloak sweeping in a grand arc that marked even his most immature departure with a regal flourish.
“Oi!” The older whirled after him, irked. After Edmond disappeared from sight, Apophis cast a casual glance about. Discovering no one in the vicinity, Apophis turned to face the hundred foot tapestry that cloaked the wall behind him. A proud ebony dragon reared on its hind legs, jaws open in immortalized roar of defiance, standing against a field of midnight sapphire. The threads had been individually selected by master weavers and dyed with crushed petals of the rare northern ice lily. The embroidery was artistically woven using threads spun from a brilliant gleaming silver. The dragon’s individual scales glittered with star sapphires, and the dragon’s one visible eye was a majestic blue diamond.
This tapestry was a treasure that had graced the halls of the Grand Entryway for more than 400 years. It, like the throne of the north; was incorruptible and indestructible.
Which was why, it, like the throne, would burn that very evening.
Apophis stepped behind the tapestry and murmured to the darkness, “It was a foolish joke. He suspects nothing. We shall commence with the plan.”
A wry smile from the darkness and a deep voice rumbled, “Long live the king.”