Part 2

He stopped just before the king’s chambers. The great hall was no place for private meetings. Leaning against the smooth stone wall, he waited pensively. It earned him some odd glances from passerbies. Finally, Lady Eleana came by on her way to the king, looking splendidly as usual. Her golden hair and silver dress fluttered behind her as she cast him a disgruntled glance. Adian had half a mind to tell her she was trying his patience, but held his tongue, smiled and bowed politely. She reluctantly returned the gesture and quickly left him.

He waited a few more minuted before he followed her. The doors were no closed. “His Majesty just received Lady Mantione. They’re not to be disturbed,” the guard informed him.

“This matter cannot wait,” he calmly told the man.

“But…” the guard started confused. Adian cut him short: “This matter cannot wait any longer. Unless you’d like to explain to His Majesty how your obstruction put Her Highness, Princess Lannvaire at risk?”

The man grew pale. Adian simply brushed him aside and entered the king’s office. King Macrynann and Lady Mantione sat at a large table, in the midst of a heated debate. They both looked up, agitated by the interruption.

“Whatever is up this time, can’t it wait until I’m finished here?” the king asked.

Adian bowed before he spoke: “My king, if it could, I wouldn’t be interrupting your negotiations.”

“Shall I just go and wait outside like you were before I arrived, then?” Eleana asked sharply. She was about to get up and storm off without another word.

Adian gestured her to remain seated. “This concerns you as well, my lady.”

“What’s the matter, then?” the king sighed impatiently.

Adian slowly took a chair and joined them at the table. “My king, are you aware that your daughter is being courted by Sir Dace of Teròfaer?”

“Of course I did. He asked for my blessing just a few days ago.”

Adian’s eyebrows went up in feigned surprise. “Surely, you cannot have approved?”

“What are you talking about? Sir Dace is a man of excellent standing. He has a keen eye for the intricacies of the court, is a master of the sword and the finest captain in my guard. His record is absolutley flawless.”

“I’m sure that his is. Mine, however, shows some ugly stains,” Adian smirked. “I’d like to take a closer look at his last mission, if I may?”

Eleana’s eyes narrowed. The girl started to get it. The king remained clueless as ever as he asked: “What of it?”

“I presume that you received a full report, as usual. I also presume that as usual, the officer in charge wrote that report. Therefore, I draw the logical conclusion that any report you receive looks favourably upon its author.”

He gave the king a moment to let it sink in before he asked: “Have you ever asked anyone but Sir Dace for an opinion on Sir Dace?”

“I’m no fool, Adian. I see where you’re going with this,” Macrynnan said. “I am well aware that the latest meeting between Lady Mantione and Sir Dace was somewhat unpleasant. If you have something to say about my best captain, speak plainly.”

Adian folded his finger together. “Returning to my argument, I have taken the effort to ask a number of witnesses of the infamous ambush upon Lady Mantione’s escort,” he turned to the ambassador; “Sadly, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding between us, I am still lacking your perspective on the event. And I am sure that King Macrynann would also find it enlightening.”

Eleana looked furious. “Now you want me to talk?”

Adian smiled friendly. “Anything you have to say on the matter. Please speak your mind.”

“You are a cunning manipulator, Grandmaster,” she said with trembling voice.

“I already know that,” the king came in between. “What about Sir Dace?”

Now it would come, Adian knew. All that bottled up anger she had contained since she arrived.

“A petty, self-centered man. He’s a liar and a cheat, claiming others’ successes as his own and blaming them for his own failures. When there’s no lies to rely on, the greatest tact he can muster is a blind, hot-headed charge that endangers those he is sworn to protect.”

Her words struck the king like a volley of arrows. He frowned. “I can hardly call this an objective assessment.”

“I believe Lady Mantione is trying to point out that Sir Dace failed to protect your daughter from hostage-taking, then put his own men at risk, forcing Avarron into an incredibly risky rescue of Lannvaire and subsequently left her without protection as he led a charge into the forest. May I presume that none of this was in the report?”

Macrynnan grew pale. “Who told you this?” he asked.

“Your own royal guards, Avarron’s mercenaries and the princess herself all confirm that she was taken hostage and rescued by Sir Avarron,” Adian said casually.

“Furthermore, the charges against Sir Avarron were false. He has been an example of chivalry and always took his duties very seriously.”

This game was already won, Adian knew. It was time to finish it. “I’d even dare to say that Dace has for a long time now fed you false reports on Prince Avarron’s non-existing attempts to woo your daughter.”

“Exactly!” Eleana jumped in. “It’s really the other way a…” she fell silent as Adian calmly met the two confused stares.

He clapped his hands and gave wide grin. “That brings me to the second matter; my promise to keep you updated on Avarron’s whereabouts. I am pleased to inform you that he has successfully reclaimed the throne of Terrálh from his fallen ancestor. Our plans move along smoothly and I expect his coronation before the winter.

“Avarron is of royal blood?” Macrynnan asked stupefied.

“I know it sounds incredible, but the prophecy doesn’t lie,” Adian replied.

The king clenched his teeth. “Do you know what this means? A fourth kingdom. A massive upheaval in the current power balance. All kings will have to and pay their respects. I’ll have to interrupt these negotiations with Nevarus you wanted so badly. What game are you playing?”

“Actually, why don’t you send the princess in your stead? I’m sure Prince Avarron would understand and I’m certain that Lannvaire would absolutely love to go. And I wouldn’t worry about that fourth kingdom. Just think of what this could mean for your dynasty.” Adian said cheerfully.

The king’s mouth fell open in awe. “My grandson would be emperor,” he gasped.

“As always, I serve the best interests of the kingdom,” Adian got up from the table and bowed politely. “I’ll leave you two to your negotiations.”

“All of this was your plan all along, isn’t it?” Eleana asked. Her face was flushed with anger.

“You flatter me, Lady Mantione. Sadly, we can’t all marry a handsome, chivalrous prince,” Adian replied and closed the door behind him.

The ambassador’s fury echoed through the corridor as he walked away with a satisfied smile on his face. Those two would keep each other occupied long enough.

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