King Barlemere Sebastian Edwards IV
In the heart of Castle Gallen, King Barlemere Sebastian Edwards the fourth stood on the balcony of his study overlooking the palace courtyard. He watched as his subjects scattered around like ants on a hill busy at work, keeping his kingdom running. To his dismay, he had a rough time trying to name the individuals bustling to and fro beneath him. In his youth he made it a priority to know the names and faces of every man, woman and child who entered the palace. Lord or not he would show all of his subjects the same degree of kindness and respect.
This was a far cry from his father who garnished animosity from his subjects until the red worm finally took him. He heard the whispers about his father and was determined to be a better king. He wanted his people to love him not fear him. Love would keep the peace whereas fear may spawn anger, upheaval, and unrest. As a young king he worked hard at building good will and trust between he and all that dwelled within his borders.
Now, twenty years later he is more hated and reviled than his father ever was. This broke his heart in ways he could never show of speak of to any one for none could understand his plight. Not even his beloved queen or his children knew how the people’s angst affected him so.
In his youth he thought his father was out of touch with his people. Can he not see what they truly think of him? With the crown comes an understanding, of one's place in the realm. Though he loves the people of Gallendale more than they will ever know, they hate him in return for the actions he takes. They despise him for doing the very things that keep them safe and allow peace to reign in his borders.
After sometime he stopped learning the names of those around him. Not unless they were vital to his day to day duties. It was easier to deal with those who think ill of you when they don’t have an identity. Distancing himself from his subjects was the only way he could be a good king. It was the only way he could be the king Gallendale deserves.
The grand doors to the study swung open as King Barlemere heard the voice of his son Alexander attempting to calm someone down. Barlemere took in a deep breath as he prepared himself to deal with whatever problem had just barged into his study. Barlemere put his thoughts of years gone to the side and slipped into his kingly demeanor.
“Father,” Prince Alexander called out. “I’m afraid Count Marcellus—”
“What is the meaning of this?” Count Marcellus Ducard’s voice instantly agitated the king. Barlemere left the balcony to see a red faced Marcellus storming towards him with the crown prince following. Behind the prince were two knights of the Royal Shield dressed in full armor with their silver cloaks flapping as they approached. Over their chest plate they wore a green slash embroidered with the the golden crown behind the image of clashing swords. Green was the color of Prince Alexander as these were his personal guards.
The Prince and Marcellus alike were dressed in white dublets. Where the prince wore a simple vest with his family’s crest on his left chest Marcellus looked as if he were heading to a ball. A thick gold chain with rubies and diamonds bounced against the hefty man's chest. Each finger of his hand carried jewelry that sparkled against the sun light from the windows.
“What is the issue now Marcellus,” Barlemere raised a hand to his son. Marcellus had become quite the nuisance over the past couple of years. It seemed as if there was always one thing or another for him to complain about. The Count has visited the king’s court more than any other lord in Gallendale and he never failed to make his concerns heard. He had become to familiar with the king but it seems now he has reached a new level of boldness. Barlemere stood behind his desk but did not take a seat. Instead he eyed Marcellus as he approached in an attempt to remind him who he was speaking to.
“Your Highness,” Marcellus began. “The prince has informed me that castle Gallen’s summer tournament has been cancelled and I demand to know why?” The sweat from the summer’s sun was apparent on Marcellus which made his short brunette hair stick to his forehead.
“Demand?” Barlemere raised an eyebrow.
“I have waited over the last seven months for this tournament. I have stayed my blade against the acts of aggression against me, so justice could be found at the tournament. But if there will be no tournament then I will have to call upon my banners and seek justice myself.”
Barlemere did not hide the look of confusion on his face as he hadn’t the slightest idea of what Marcellus was referring too. This look caused his son to fill him in on the details.
“Father,” the prince said as he pushed his long blonde hair over his shoulder. “Count Marcellus was hoping to settle his dispute with house Saunders during the tournament. There seems to be a dispute over a mill.”
“There is no dispute,” Marcellus interjected. “There are just facts. The mill belongs to me. Yet Lady Amil’s farmers have used it without paying me with coin or grain.”
“Some of Lord Marcellus’ men put the wood to one of the farmers.” The Prince added.
“It is my right to protect my lands, is it not?” Marcellus asked. “I acted within my rights. Well that disgusting, blackhearted, despicable wench, then burned the crops of one of my farms.”
“She claims she played no part in the deed,” said the prince.
“She is a liar like her late husband was, like all of her bastard children are. She is a witch I tell you. Black to the core, with rot in her bones. I demanded retribution! I demanded that we settle this dispute in the melee to which the hag accepted. My four champions have been selected and are ready to right the wrongs committed by that despicable shrew. A purse has already been submitted to the Bank of Avril.”
“I see,” Barlemere said as he now understood why Marcellus was steaming.
“So,” Marcellus continued. “Either we have our melee at the tournament or I will be forced to muster my forces and march upon that evil witch.”
Barlemere fully accepted Marcellus’ argument and understood why he was upset. Since before the fall of the gods, tournaments were a way to keep the peace between the lords. Castle Gallen’s Summer Festival always started the tournament season. It was the biggest festival and usually the one where most would pick to settle their disputes. Unfortunately for Marcellus, this was not the time for lords of Gallendale to fight amongst each other as every able bodied man was needed elsewhere.
“The festival will not take place this year,” Barlemere pointed at Marcellus. “You along with Lady Amil and the other western lords will provided men from your lands to aide in the war effort.”
“Are you mad?”
“Five hundred men at arms, one hundred calvary and twenty archers will be supplied from each territory you govern.” The king allowed his words to sink in as he watched Lord Marcellus’ face morph from astonishment to anger.
“I have no more men.”
“You will provide—”
“I have no more men!” Marcellus voice echoed throughout the study as he slammed the palms of his hands on the kings desk.. The Knights of the Royal Shield grasped the handles of their swords and took a step toward the frustrated lord, causing the king to raise his hand to back them down. “The Empire has already raided our farms and took more men than we could afford to give.”
“The Emperor does not want farmers or merchant sons. He blames the failures against Bravengard on the lack of commitment from Gallendale. As such he is requesting any Lord with at least two sons; must send one with this next group of men as long as he is of age.” The words chipped at his heart as soon as the king said them. The look of horror that swept across Marcellus face as he realized what this meant for his sons further tore at the kings emotions. The Count looked at the king for empathy for which the king showed none. It pained Barlemere to do this to his people but he could never show it. Marcellus turned to the Crown Prince who was clearly confused and in shock by the news as well.
“Father,” the prince said. “We can’t do this. The Emperor has gone to far. This is not our war.”
“Silence!” Barlemere yelled at his son before eyeing him down. “Do not speak against your emperor ever again.” The king’s stare did not leave the prince until well after his son lowered his head in concession. Barlemere watched Marcellus’ brow wrinkle as he grit his teeth. He made fist with both of his hands until his knuckles turned completely white.
“What have you done?” Marcellus said under his breath. “I will not send my boys to go off and die in a foreign land against an enemy who means them no harm. They will not die for an emperor they have never seen and an empire across the sea.”
“The empire is all around us,” Barlemere waved to the air. “Gallendale has been apart of the empire for centuries and we have flourished because of it. Now it is time for us to do our part.”
“Is it?” Marcellus stood up straight. “So which of your sons will you send to fight the savages of Bravengard?”
“Mind yourself Lord Marcellus,” the king warned.
“I will go,” Prince Alexander announced. “We can not ask our people to make sacrifices that we are not willing to make ourselves. You have taught me that father, have you not? I will go to Bravengard and lead our people to victory against the savages. We will show the Empire and the rest of the realms that the men of Gallendale are to be feared by all who oppose the Empire.” Marcellus looked at the young prince and placed a hand on his shoulder nodding his head in approval.
“You will be a great king one day,” Marcellus said. “We can not lose you to this foolish war the way we have lost so many others.” Marcellus face went cold as he turned back to the king. “There are many brave boys like your son here. Many who are the future of our great kingdom. Everytime we send troops to fight these savages we are weakening our kingdom and our future. Always remember, Sangora watches. Three Warden watches. Bravengard will not lose this war to us or the empire cause they fight for something we lost as soon as your bloodline knelt to a foreign ruler.”
“My patience with this conversation has been exhausted,” Barlemere said as he waved off Marcellus’s comments. “You and the other lords of your region will do as the Emperor instructed.”
“I will not send my—”
“You will do what your king demands!” Barlemere’s anger surfaced as he slapped the desk in front of him. “I am your king, and I am demanding this from you and the other western lords!” Barlemere pounded the table again. “Fifty men at arms, twenty calvary, and twenty archers with high born sons to lead them. I demand this from you, Lady Amil, Lord Parrish, Count Barmont, House Parcel and Lord Aron! I demand it from every western count, viscount, marquess sheriff and governor!”
“Father,” The prince raised his hands and stepped toward the desk.
“All of the lords,” Barlemere continued. “You will do as your king demands or you will face the judgement of the crown. Now leave from my presence until you remember yourself.” Marcellus stood in front of the king visibly shaken and red faced. Barlemere anticipated a hostile response and even welcomed one as he feed into his anger. Instead Marcellus did his best to calm down and replied with a simple.
“As you wish your highness.” Marcellus made a sharp turn and stormed out of the kings study. After his departure silence fell upon the room which prompted Barlemere to address the Royal Shield.
“Leave me with my son. He will be out to join you shortly.” The knights clicked their heels together and placed a fist over their hearts before taking a bow and walking in unison out of the study, closing the door behind them.
“Father,” Alexander said before the king gestured for his silence.
“I am not going to lecture you or tell you how to think. You are past that now.” Barlemere walked from around his desk to stand beside his son. “Many of the lords of Gallendale think I am weak. They think we should do as Bravengard has done and break away from the Empire. They think we should fight for our freedom like they have done. What do you think? What would you have us do?” The prince stood silent for a moment before reaching his conclusion.
“I would do what you are doing.”
“Why?” the king asked.
“Bravengard was conquered, we were not. They lost their freedom to the empire while we joined the empire to make us stronger. We needed the Empire to fight off the armies of Sanogra. To go against the Empire, we would have to break the oath we pledged to them.”
“A war with the Empire would leave the west open to attack from Sangora as it did before.”
“We learn from our past, so we do not make the same mistakes in our future.” The king wrapped both his hands around the arms of his son. “The fight against Bravengard will end sooner than later. That is a fight we can win. A fight against the Empire and Sangora would be the end of our great kingdom.” Alexander nodded his head in agreement.
A knock on the door interrupted them before the door slowly opened. Midnight hair peaked its way through the slit of the door before squinty hazel eyes followed it. Jacquees the king’s advisor slowly revealed himself. Dressed in his usual black attire he softly closed the door behind him.
“Your highness,” Jaquess said before noticing Alexander. “My prince.” Jaquess bowed his head then darted quickly toward the both of them. “I have news your highness.”
“I am speaking with my son,” Barlemere waved the man away.
“This is urgent, I am afraid the news cannot wait your grace.”
“It is alright father,” Alexander said as he grabbed his father by the shoulder. He grew into his man strength now as his father could feel the power in his touch. “I should catch up to Marcellus before he leaves. I maybe able to calm him a bit before he returns west.” Barlemere nodded his head in approval as he saw no harm in trying. No need for the people to hate Alexander the way they did him. That burden will fall on him one day and there was no need to rush it. The prince exited the study as Jaquess remained silent until the door was completely closed.
“I have knews.”
“You have said this,” Barlemere said as he walked back around his desk.
“Dalvin Longsfeer has been captured.”
“What?” This was news the king was not expecting. “Where? When?”
“Riders delivered the message today. He is being held in a jail at Avril Bay.”
“Dammit!” The day was still early and the king wanted nothing more than for it to be over already. “Why couldn’t he just stay away. Who knows of this?”
“Word has spread through Avril Bay for sure,” Jaquess replied. “Outside of that there is no telling.”
“He has forced my hand then,” Barlemere gripped the edge of his table and squeezed in an attempt to release his frustration. “Send riders to Avril Bay. Dalvin Longsfeer will lose his head for once again defying his king. Write up a letter and I will seal it.”
“Well,” Jaquess raised his finger. “I think we have an opportunity your highness.” The king raised his brow as he was not sure what Jaquess could be referring to. “Do your sons know, or is the secret still between you, the queen and I?”
“The pact remains.”
“The attempt on your life was only months ago your highness,” Jaquess began to pace towards the edge of the table. “We would be fools to believe the culprits behind it would only make one attempt.” Jaquess continued to outline the desk until he was face to face with the king. “I find it odd that after all of these years of being banished, Dalvin would attempt to sneak into Gallendale now. What if he was sent here? What if your enemies sent him?”
“What are you getting at?”
“Have him brought here your grace. We can interrogate him. I will oversee the matter myself. With him here it may cause those who sent him to panic. Afraid he may name them and force them to unwittingly reveal themselves. If he dies in Avril Bay your enemies will just replace him with another. If he is brought here alive…”
Barlemere saw the wisdom in the plan. Jaquess has been his advisor for the last sixteen summers as his father fulfilled that role before him.
“Dalvin,” the king said under his breath. “So be it, have him sent here.”
“As you wish your highness,” Jaquess bowed before quickly sprinting toward the doors. What Jaquess said was true and could help him find out who was plotting against him. There was something off about it. He knew Dalvin. When Dalvin was apart of the King’s Shield the two men spent many days and knights in each others company. Dalvin wasn’t an assassin or at least he wasn’t then. Being exiled and stripped for your rights, title and dignity could change a man. Barlemere could understand why Dalvin would want to see him dead. But, an assassin?
“Wait!” The king shouted just before Jaquess was able to open the grand doors. Jaquess turned abruptly, eyes widened as he waited on Barlemere’s demands. “Do not have him sent to me. Call for my party, I will go to him.”
First I have received a lot of request for this, so I am happy to announce the audiobook for Gold For Steel will be out this month. When more details to come on that soon but it is coming and soon.
Book 2!!!! (Maybe book 3?)
Yes, book two is coming along nicely. Hope to release it this year, but we will see. It is pretty massive, so I might split it in half and release book two and three at the same time. In either case, it is on the way, and I promise questions will be answered.
You will not break me! Kastriel met the judgmental stares of his kin with a look of defiance. He would not be shamed nor would he beg for amnesty. Instead, he would force them all to look into his eyes and see no fear lived within him. They thought binding him in ebony shackles; blocking him from the source, would somehow frighten him. They thought by forcing him to his knees in front of the mortals who once showered him with devotion, would humiliate him. Kastriel would show them that they were wrong on both accounts. Even bound and on his knees, he was still a god. No matter what they did or said they could not take his pride nor break his spirit.