Shallice and Morband: Chapter 2

In the following day, Paltrus left the Fort of Dorz where he typically conducted his business and began walking through the White Chapel to the castle to meet with his father privately.  He was no longer wearing the ceremonial silver armor, but instead a princely blouse, which was as white as any launderer could whiten and was stitched with the Landhel emblem, and brown trousers.  After he passed through the sanctuary and into the back halls, he informed his father’s servants that he was ready for their meeting.  He then relished the sights of the saints painted on the walls.  The humble and selfless acts of these saints and their devotion to Dhelianos inspired him to determination to one day be an image on those walls.  The hallway in which he was present was fifty feet wide and arched up to a hundred feet, fantastically lit by the torches made by the arts of the Dhelian alchemists, who fashioned a chemical that would burn bright, long, clean, and consistent white light.  This light was spread around the chamber by the polished shine of the gray and brown stones that made the floor and walls.  There were no roofs in these hallways, as the gradual curl of the walls met at the top.

Paltrus was looking at the pictures of the legendary actions of these saints.  If a king were to do something especially heroic, his action was immortalized in a painting on this wall, illustrating his sainthood.  Though there were many Dhelian kings, only one-hundred and fifty were thus far immortalized in this way, and Tetros was one of only a dozen and a half that were immortalized during their own lifetime.  Paltrus was determined to be sainted in his own lifetime as well.  This hallway was of particular interest to him, as he wished to gather ideas on any methods that he may develop to achieve this dream.

The painting of his father was always of particular interest to Paltrus.  He knew that if he were to be sainted, he may need to please many of the people who worked with and admired his father, therefore it reasonably followed that he might be more likely to impress them if he were to emulate his father.  Paltrus, then, studied this particular painting often.  It was brightly colored, taking place on a dirt road at midday, with fields on both sides of the road and the capital city of Dhelian in the distance, with the White Chapel particularly noticeable.  A young maiden could be seen, fallen on the road, looking in amazement towards the then twenty-four year old King Dhelius, who was strangling an ogre with his bare hands.  This ogre had just attacked the young maiden on the road.  The extreme pain of the ogre that the painter illustrated brought out the strong sense of justice that Tetros Landhel had, and the conviction that this justice is right.  All of the limbs of the ogre were broken, but Tetros’ superior battle experience allowed for him to leave this fight without a scratch.  His heroism, but more importantly his sense of justice in eliminating this feared ogre that sought to damage this poor maiden’s sense of well-being, was what earned him this honor of sainthood.

Paltrus began to speak to himself out loud, saying, “It is this to which I must aspire.  This justice.  This unrelenting conviction.  This is where I must be.”

A voice was heard behind him, saying “My lord.”

Paltrus turned to see the servant to whom he had spoken earlier.  “Your lord is ready to see you.”

Knowing full well the path, Paltrus followed the lead of the servant, who took him through the White Chapel.  Following the paths through the chapel would take them an hour and a half, which was spent mostly greeting the various residents there.  They passed through the halls, which were essentially roads, even to the point of having horse-drawn carriages carrying passengers to various places.  Many of these indoor roads were much larger than the Hall of Saints, sometimes seventy-five or a hundred feet across, and up to two hundred feet high.  Most of these halls needed no pillars because of the arched walls, but some that did have pillars also had roofs and stained glass windows, similar to the ones in the Sanctuary.  They passed through entire marketplaces, nearly as large as those outside the chapel, including buildings inside the very chapel building.

As they came out of the chapel and onto the outside road, they could see the Palace of Champions ahead, gray and tall, but not quite as tall as the Great Tower of the White Chapel.  It did, however, have many more towers than the chapel, but only because the chapel was a long, continuous building rather than a complex.  Nevertheless, this was a home fitting of an especially wealthy king.

Paltrus followed the servant over the bridge of the moat and into the courtyard of the castle.  Upon entering, he was heralded by the sound of trumpets.  He examined the yard to see the children of certain people within the Royalty playing many games with many toys.  Membership within the Royalty of Dhelian was not limited to the Royal Family, but anyone working to govern the kingdom.  These people were given the privilege of living in the Palace of Champions, the same complex in which the Royal Family lived, and there was ample room within the complex for them all.

Along the sides of the courtyard were many shops, inns, and servicemen, as the castle had its own marketplace as well.  It was not as large as the chapel’s marketplace or the outer city’s, but still much larger and more successful than many of those in the surrounding kingdoms.  As Paltrus watched this market, as he was always keen to do, he noticed a small group of darkly dressed men walking away from a particular icon shop and onto the road to the chapel.  There were many dealings among the three marketplaces of the city, and these were monks specially ordained to be able to leave the chapel to keep the marketplaces connected and the economy stable.

The servant led Paltrus through the market and into the castle interior.  Inside were private halls, meeting halls, festivity halls, dining halls, war halls, and any other hall one might possibly imagine for which a government might have use.  There was even a hall dedicated to the meetings of the members of the Royal Committee of Hall Use, which decided what to do with the extra rooms within the Castle.  Paltrus’ destination was a private hall in one of the towers, being the private rooms of the Bel-Dhelius.

“As you know, my lord, I am forbidden to enter the tower.”

“Yes, very well.”

The servant stood beside a great door leading into the tower of the Bel-Dhelius.  Only the family of the Dhelius and his highest officers of the Royalty were allowed to enter the tower.  These officers included the Arch-Knight and the Commander of the Constables.  By ruling of the ancient laws, personal friends of the Dhelius were forbidden to enter the tower.  Guards were posted on every entrance keeping any intruders out, but the guards themselves were forbidden unless called upon by the Dhelius’ officers.  For this reason, these trusted officers also acted as the Dhelius’ personal guards when not acting in their regular position.

Paltrus entered the tower by a great room with the same polished floor and columns as the chapel, with a red carpet leading across the room to the staircase, which spiraled around the outermost part of the tower, connecting the rooms of the Dhelius family.  The walls of stone in this great room were covered in needlework hangings made of silk, which depicted scenes of the mythology and history of Dhelian.  There was furniture of solid wood and marble with vases and candlesticks of gold and silver.  Very few people would see this furniture and these decorations, and many who did beheld them as the last sight of their lives.

The fourth-highest room of this tower was the Dhelius’ private meeting hall, which was Paltrus’ destination.  In this room the highest business was conducted, but only with the Dhelius’ family and his two highest officers.  The third highest was the Dhelius’ bedchamber.  The second-highest was a room for the Dhelius to raise his children and the highest was a room for the Dhelius to conduct his private business.  It contained many secret documents, many of which only the Dhelius would view, and only the Dhelius could enter the room.  Even the Sel-Dhelius could not enter the room until he became the Bel-Dhelius.  It was separated into two rooms.  The first was a somewhat short antechamber, and was purposed only to lead into the second room.  The doors to both of these rooms were locked, with locks that matched two different keys.  This was to keep everyone but the Dhelius out of this room.  Anybody who watched the Dhelius enter the room would only see him enter the antechamber before he closed the door.  In this way, no person other than the Dhelius would see the inside of this room.  The roof of this tower was flat and reserved for the king’s stargazing.

Paltrus crossed the room to meet with Polius, who greeted him kindly and with reverence.

“My lord.  Your lord is waiting for us.”

The two men climbed the stairs, admiring the wall hangings that were also present in the tower staircase.  They circled the tower until they reached the fourth-highest room in the tower and both entered.  They saw the Bel-Dhelius in his royal garments, sitting at the center table with Melbruss, the Commander of the Constables, in his light armor.  The room was round and surrounded in bookcases full of texts regarding law, history, philosophy, theology, and books of hymns to Dhelianos.  There was one break in the wall that allowed for a window that looked upon the staircase.  This particular section of the staircase also had a window looking upon the Capital City, so that someone standing in the meeting hall would be able to see into the staircase and out the window and upon the city.  The White Chapel could be seen from this window.

Polius and Paltrus approached the table and sat opposite of the Bel-Dhelius and Melbruss.  Then the Dhelius raised his hands, looked up, and spoke.

“Praise Dhelianos for allowing us our paths, and honor Him by following them to their ends.”

He then lowered his hands and looked at Polius and Paltrus in front of him.

“Arch-Knight and my second, you are aware of the rumors growing in the city?”

Paltrus began to speak.  “We know that Mischian and Talian are warring with one another again.”

“Do you know the cause?”

“The citizens know it concerns ownership of land,” said Polius.  “A letter that I received from the Lord Mischius confirms it.  This land is home to a particularly profitable mine according to the letters I’ve received.”

“May I see the letters sent to you by Mischius?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Polius removed from his satchel a document with a broken seal and handed it to the king.

Upon hearing this, Paltrus became angry, but said quietly to Polius, “Why has word of this not reached my ear?”

“I just received this letter moments ago,” Polius replied.

The king took the letter from Polius’ hand and briefly looked over it before setting it on the table and speaking again.

“This is our present situation.  Both Talius and Mischius ask for our support.  We can give it to neither, but we must cause them to think that we are giving it to both without the other knowing it.”

“Talius also asks?” said Polius.

“Yes, he visited me personally.  This land has long been disputed among these two countries, but nothing has been done about it because both have had more important matters to which to attend.  This is new.  That mine has never been profitable by means of gold or jewels.  Talius claims that a local child has found Arrburdak buried beneath that mine.”

The three other men reeled, yet out of confusion rather than shock.  Arrburdak was a city of ancient times said to be located in Cirian.  The histories of Arrburdak were vague and contradictory, and most historians believed that they had thoroughly disproved its existence.

Paltrus spoke.  “Why do they fight over this city?  Surely there is very little value to a crumbling relic.”

“I do not know,” responded the king.  “I do doubt they’ve found the city at all.  It is leagues away from the location described in the legends.  They have probably found a forgotten village.  However, they both believe that there is some value in whatever they have found, and that may yet prove true, even if that value is not Arrburdak.”

The king turned towards Paltrus and said plainly to him, “I am hereby giving you a new title in addition to those that you already hold.  Henceforth you will also hold the office of Second Ambassador.

Paltrus had not yet discussed this idea with his father, but was pleased that the king also saw the need for such a position in the growing tensions among the nations.

“Thank you, my lord.”

“Your first task in this role is to visit the area and learn more of the situation.  Then you will determine what your immediate actions must be.  After that, return here and I will consult you in your long-term policies in the matter.  Remember that we do not want to lose the loyalty of either of them.  Both have been allies of ours for some time.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“You will also take Polius with you.  Though this is likely to be a small matter, we still should be very careful, and for that I shall require the best efforts our kingdom can offer.  Our skirmishes against the barbarians in the unknown lands to the south do not need your special attention, and this may still prove to be more problematic to the Tharadish balance than at first suspected, so do not worry that your time is wasted.”

Paltrus and Polius both responded in turn, “Yes, my lord.”

“I ask that you leave for that area immediately.  Melbruss and I will discuss domestic matters for now.”  Then the king turned to Paltrus specifically and said, “You and I will discuss your dealings with our own citizens upon your return.”  He then turned to both of them again and said, “May Dhelianos guide your paths.”

Paltrus and Polius both responded in turn again, “Thank you, my lord.”

The two of them stood, bowed, and left the king to work with Melbruss.  As they walked through the White Chapel’s market on their way towards the Fort of Dorz to prepare for their journey, Paltrus asked Polius, “Did that letter reveal anything else about the situation?”

“No,” responded Polius, “however, my lord, I do seem to remember a passage concerning Arrburdak in my studies of mythology in my youth that may be relevant.”

“What did it say?”

“If I remember correctly, it said,

In the lost city beneath Cirian lies a power within the reach of man.
Of man are its origins and for man is its purpose.
Potential unknown and power unused,
Infinite paths and unyielding will
.”

Paltrus thought over this briefly before saying, “Not very poetic, is it?”

“I don’t know that it was meant to be, sir.  But I wonder if it is true.”

“It may be.  I also wonder if there is a connection between their paths and the Paths of Dhelianos.”

“What I studied said that there is none to be found, but many historians have wondered the same.”

Paltrus and Polius continued to the Fort of Dorz to prepare their units for the mission.

 


 

Their troops were ready by the afternoon of that day.  They waited patiently for Paltrus’ command to depart, but he had not yet decided where to go.  Polius approached him and asked, “My lord, do you know yet how you wish to proceed?”

Paltrus responded, “How do you think that we should?”

“I had thought that it might be best to first depart for Enoth.  From there, you will depart to meet with Talius in his Capital City, and I will depart to meet with Mischius at a camp near the disputed lands.  I thought it best that I meet with Mischius because his letter was sent to me and that you meet with Talius because he met with your father.  That might make them feel more comfortable, as if we are taking personal interests in their affairs.”

“That does seem to be the best route.”

“We should also ask for secrecy.  They must not allow other nations to know of our involvement, lest both discover that we are speaking with their enemy.”

“How shall we ask them to do this so as not to create suspicion?”

“We must convince them that we are asking this for their own benefit; that it would be best to surprise their enemies with our presence at a crucial moment.  In that, we can stay behind in any battle that might erupt, telling them that it is not yet prudent for us to surprise the enemy.”

“This seems to be a good course of action.  Let us follow it.”

Paltrus then mounted his horse and rode in front of his men to speak to them.

“We are going to leave from here shortly.  We will head for Enoth and request lodging for the night, but we will not reach it until tomorrow evening.  Tonight, however, we will camp in our tents, for we will be traveling cross-country, and there is neither road nor town where we shall be.  From Enoth, twenty of you will come with me to the Talian Capital, and the other twenty will follow Polius to a Mischian army camp near the disputed land.  There you will receive further orders once we determine what shall be done.  Now, let us ride.”

On that command, all men started forward in the direction of Enoth.

Chapter 3

Comments are closed.