Chapter 23: Chapter 2
The news of the death of King Taelin spread like fire in the forest, a week later and everyone was aware of it. Many people were so tempted to see who will sit on the throne of Prophis. Will it be Prince Castellan, the crowned prince who it was within his rights to ascend the throne. Or will it be prince Lucian, Mithandirs brother who was in the dark plotting a revenge against Taelin and all his successors
Now thats what everyone wanted to know and the omen of the kingdom couldnt be foretold, not even by Aurora when Artemis asked.
Princess Sansa and Lord Balon had already moved in into their own castle just a small walk from the main palace. They had their own servants, gardens, cooks and everything they wanted. This was exactly what Princess Sansa dreamed of, and now she was sure she could brag about her new position to her sisters and brothers who collaborated with her father in exiling her from the kingdom.
One particular day she wrote a letter to her father. It was soft, tender and she was actually telling her father of her position now in Maldonia as the hand of the kings wife. Where she comes from, kingdom of Lazica, with how huge Maldonia was, perhaps Lazica was like one of the small forgotten villages.
Princess Sansa told his father to forgive her and let bygones be bygones, she even promised her father gifts and power in Maldonia since she was now close to the king. “I urge you to support Mithandirs brother claim to Prophis. Join armies with Maldonia and rise to the top. I am your humbly daughter, Sansa” and then she sent it through merchants who promised to pass through Lazica on their way to the farthest east.
Unfortunately, Princess Sansa wasnt aware that Lord Balrus controls all the merchants in Maldonia. Nothing goes out of the kingdom without him being aware of, and he saw Sansa delivering the letter to one of the merchants. When Lord Balrus read the letter he was shocked at what Princess Sansa wrote regarding Maldonia helping Lucian Mithandir to take the throne of Prophis.
Hence he immediately got up from his bed and rushed to the council chambers, there he found Lord Angun, Lord Akirbus, Lord Balon and Artemis himself inside. Only this time they were joined by Sir Maxim on the table.
Artemis welcomed him in “Oh Lord Balrus, we were just talking about you” he said with a smile.
Lord Balrus approached the table and slowly curtsied “Your Grace” he said softly, and thats because he wasnt expecting to see Lord Balon inside there, nor sir Maxim. He was still holding the letter hence he immediately tucked it inside his robe and proceed “I hope Im not interfering with your conversations my lords” he said softly with a grin.
“Not at all lord Balrus, please do join us” Lord Balon was the first one to speak. Artemis was amused by how accustomed he became with the names of the lords and how to be a hand of the king.
Lord Balrus pulled up a chair and sat down, he exhaled and waited to see what sort of conversation was going before he barged in.
“I called in the knight of Maldonia, Sir Maxim whom you are all aware of his impressive swordsmanship skills and how he defended the kingdom against the elves bravely” Artemis resumed. “Sir Maxim happens to be Lady Kholins uncle, and I am positive all of you my lords are aware of the friendship Lady Kholin and I have cultivated over the years. I say its time she sits beside me in Sweet Waters Throne as the Queen of Maldonia”
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Now finally everything was out in plain sight, Artemis was done hiding his feelings towards a woman who he loved with all his heart. Since everything was out, now it was up to the lords to decide for their king.
Lord Angun cleared his throat before speaking, he was always the kindest one and when he speaks, he makes sure its a valuable point. “Well, Your Grace... I am very aware of your friendship with Lady Kholin and I may even dare say I have never seen such friendship which is so pure and utterly adorable to look at. However -” Lord Angun paused as if he was suspecting whether he was making sense or not.
“Lady Kholin is a servant Your Grace” he finally touched the nerve every lord inside the chambers was scared to, thats one thing about Lord Angun and that is he wasnt afraid to speak out the truth. “We may abide by your decisions Your Grace, but then again I must remind you of who really gives Maldonia its powers”
Lord Balrus intervened “And that is the great noble houses in the kingdom” he said agreeing with Lord Anguns proposal. “The nobles, the lords and keepers are the ones who need to be by your side. Let me remind you of your fathers relationship with a slave called Jordy” and right there Artemiss face expression changed.
“A slave What slave” asked Artemis.
Both Lord Balrus and Lord Angun looked at each other, these two knew the secret of the relationship between King Arteides and Jordy, and the son they had who was now in exile – the rightful heir to Sweet Waters Throne but god forbid a black king on the throne. Not only was it impossible but even if people of Maldonia knew king Arteides had a son in a legitimate marriage with a slave. They will still consider Artemis as the rightful ruler because he wasnt born a slave and nor was he black.
“Your Grace Im sure you have heard some of the rumors about...” Lord Balrus continued.
“They are rumors my lord. Are you going to ruin my fathers reputation based on rumors”
“This has nothing to do with reputation Your Grace, its simply a statement I wish to put before you. I fear the nobles wont like your decision”
“Lord Balrus I think you forget who you are talking to. Im the king...” Artemis punched the table with his fist. Then he abruptly stood up – the lords were silent and they just watched as Artemis lost his temper at the mention of him not having all the power.
Sir Maxim added “Your Grace if I may”
“No you may not Sir Maxim, I am marrying your niece and thats it”
“Your Grace... this isnt how its supposed to be” added sir Maxim, even though he desperately wanted his niece to be the Queen of Maldonia, he still wanted to do it the better way.
Lord Angun then intervened “We all want the best for you, our king but we cannot let you make decisions just for the matter of the heart. You can marry a princess from a great kingdom to dignify our kingdoms . She will be your wife, the queen of Maldonia and mother of your children and Lady Kholin can be your mistress and the love of your life. You two can have dozens of children and all the time in the world”
Artemis sighed and shook his head, then he turned to lord Angun “You mean dozens of bastards, right my lord”
Well, that did make Lord Angun silent and he was done advising. Lord Balrus took over and spoke of the relationship King Arteides had with Jordy, even when he was married to Artemiss mother. The only hope Artemis relied upon was presenting his situation to the twenty great houses of Maldonia, not all of them were difficult, there are some who were friendly and even king Arteides didnt have hard time talking to.
Later on when all the lords were dismissed, lord Balrus requested a solitude moment with Artemis. Not because he wanted to say more regarding his current situation but because he had Princess Sansas letter and he was debating whether to tell Artemis everything and ban Lord Balon with his wife, or stay silent and spy on princess Sansa who seemed to be so interesting.
Artemis poured himself a glass of red wine and went on to stand beside the window looking down on his kingdom. The council chamber was at the top of the palace and he could see all the houses looking like tiny huts.
“Are you here to tell me Im making the worst decision Lord Balrus” he asked without looking at lord Balrus, his eyes were focused on the outside looking at the people.
“No Your Grace, Im actually here to remind you about the tour of the kingdom which is due to start in four days from now. I accompanied your father to the tour of the houses before, however Im afraid I cant travel with you Your Grace. My legs are... aching and I must supposedly say the old age is knocking on my doors”
Artemis turned back and looked at Lord Balrus with pity on his eyes “I understand my lord, and besides... theres no one I would entrust Lady Kholins safety than you. I know you will do everything to keep her safe until I return, and till then I will know whether the nobles are with us or against us. No matter what, Aurora and I will get married”