[Nameless Hero - Chapter 13]
In reality, Heraldr was the only member of the Royal Family to not only have never been taught by Lord Isaac, but was also the only member of the Royal Family to have never left the Royal Palace.
He also had quite the reputation for causing an almost uncountable number of scandals around Lord Isaac’s estate, as well as against each of the High noble houses. It was due to Herald's own skill and negotiative power that he has yet to come under authoritative accusation according to his many underhanded actions against such individuals. It is Heraldr’s belief that the crown is absolute, that it’s kin are above all else, and that each High Noble family is an unmistakable threat to its continuity. The greatest of all threats being Lord Isaac Kaylock, the very man who had ‘kept’ the throne within his family. A subject to which Heraldr has never trusted, even after fifty years had past without Isaac publicly doing anything towards such ends.
Heraldr is widely hated throughout the nobility, and rightfully so after all the actions he has committed over the many years. The only reason he still stands where he does is because of where he draws his power and influence from, standing as the third most influential within the entire Royal Court. This power is drawn from his unrivaled spy and underground networks. Through blackmail, corruption, extortion, exhibition, and various exuberant activities across the nation, Heraldr rules the underbellies of the Kremor Kingdom with absolute authority. From martial prowess to espionage, Heraldr is truly unrivaled.
It was none other than Heraldr who delivered the rising undefeated Champion, Sir Gregory, his First in a long series of defeats. Besides Lord Isaac, it was Heraldr alone who sought Gregory’s downfall. Heraldr greatly loves and cares for his family to the absolute point where he would die a thousand fold and even turn from the Lords of Light themselves to keep them safe.
But… one could say that the love for his family is a bit too far… his burning chest whenever near his female siblings, whether his eldest or youngest, is the source of Heraldr’s greatest shame. He fully understands that such thoughts are beyond wrong and had done his absolute best to hold back such desires, for he knew that if he were to ever slip in the slightest it would mean unspeakable harm to the honor and sanctity of his beloved family.
Sadly… one day Heraldr found himself drunken out of his wits after a festival. Using a poison made of druidlily and mandrake tear’s, Heraldr mindlessly spiked the drink of his second eldest sister, Elisabeth, into a temporary comatose state. She was but 14 years old to Heraldr’s 15 at the time. By the time Heraldr had come to his senses, he was awakening to the morning’s first light, his beloved sister forever disgraced.
Heraldr, however, had managed to fully contain the incident. As he had not fully committed the deed in full, the innocence of the younger party was used to pass the incident as a period. Several maids went missing during that same day, but the incident was fully silenced.
Only Heraldr knew, but the guilt weighed heavily upon Heraldr’s mind and spirit, the guilt for what he had done was far, far too great. Just three weeks after the incident, Heraldr performed what many men might very well consider one of the greatest forms of penetance to such a crime. Within the Royal Shrine to the Lords of Light, Heraldr performed a total self castration and cauterization. To repent his great crime to his sister and family, Heraldr removed his very pride as a male to prevent a future incident from ever happening. As to the official story, a female concubine of Heraldr’s had attacked him, rendering the piece missing from his person. His father and First Prince Leon were the only ones who were informed of the missing member. The truth would remain forever with Heraldr alone.
Aside from his flaws, Heraldr’s many talents and influence have kept the Royal Family standing as the second strongest force within the Kingdom.
Heraldr surely was never one to bluff, so when he threw out such a declaration towards the nobles, it was akin to a direct threat to their status. If anyone would be able to cut through the noble’s shock, it would be the one they hated the most kicking at their pride.
If the person who had almost single handedly cornered Lord Isaac enough to revoke his title as Lord Treasurer he had held for almost six decades just three years ago was threatening your position and authority, it would certainly reach you.
While Heraldr couldn’t reasonable destroy so many houses, even if he invoked every ancient law and trick he had under the sun, the threat he made was enough to strike the defiant spirit from the defeated and crestfallen nobility.
When one considers the nobility, their pride and superiority complexes stand as a defining variable of long running aristocracies.
In the foundation period of such societies, nobles will generally be loyal for the most part. In a sense, this is one of the highest points for Royalty. Over time, however, if the concept of bloodlines and authority owed to such mediocre reasonings such as how long a family has existed develop, nobles will lose their sense of hierarchy for a sense of superiority. This will often degrade further to the point where the stronger nobles, generally High Nobles or the sort, will begin to believe that the ultimate power is owed to them rather than the Royal Family, regardless if they truly are capable of handling said power. While every scenario is different, often some form or another of a Royal and Noble faction will indeed begin to form if enough time is allowed to pass, no different than any other government. A lead faction and an opposition faction or factions.
In the Kremor Kingdom, defined by a myriad of ancient bloodlines, the divide between the nobility and the Royalty is a heavily distinct point and the two factions will clash over various issues.
The room once again went silent, but unlike the previous time, all eyes were focused on one point, the King.
For all parties present, the one person with the right to act on the situation would be the King, and the King alone. While formality, it was tradition for the Holy Trial to be dictated and dealt with by the King’s pure and divine authority. Of course there were times where the Holy Trial was used to eliminate opposition between rivaled noble groups and the High Nobles dictated the trials, with the current scenario holding so many risks and unknowns, none of the other families would dare to intercede even if they were fully recovered. Most selfish type nobles would never dream of putting themselves at risk. With only a chance for loss or expense with the current incident, the greedy nobles would happily allow the Royal Family bare the full cost. With such a great risk to life and limb, the cowardly nobles would surely never try to take the stage themselves. With the chance of great dishonor and shame befalling their proud houses, both the prideful and arrogant nobles would defer to their ‘higher’ sources of power to guide them to a deserved success, or rather, a target to blame if they needed to jump ship and avoid failure.
Like this, each noble present came to wait on the King’s judgement, fully expecting him to assign one of his children, namely Prince Leon to arbitrate the matter, as was his way. The reason Leon had deferred to his father in the first place was to grab hold of the situation and make his own decisions rather than let any power hungry young houses try to make a place for themselves.
While the noble houses didn’t particularly like the idea of giving the Royal Family free reign, their many mentalities revolving around the present ‘high risk, no reward, extremely costly’ scenario caused them to instinctively throw all responsibility onto the Royal Family. Surely it is the Royal Family’s responsibility to bare the strife and grief of the realm such that the great noble families weren’t to suffer. It is the reason such a family exists after all.
The King as known to be a rather weak king to begin with as both the First Princess and Lord Isaac were not present, there would not be much cause to worry about letting either the King or the Prince have the stage. Since a majority of the nobles threw their lot under the Prince, they shouldn’t have to worry about him doing anything to them anyway, and what could a weak King really do even if they let him walk without a leash for a few minutes.
The King’s head rested in his clasped hands, his eyebrows scrunched, showing that the King was lost in deep thought. While it was strange for the King to actually show any expression at all, all those present merely blamed the situation rather than anything else. The nobles also didn’t mind the extra pause as it gave them time to collect their thoughts.
After a few minutes, the King sighed, rose from his majestic throne, and spoke.
“I, may not be one of the greatest of kings within our long, and proud history.
I’m neither the wisest, nor the bravest.
I have not placed a single great accomplishment to my name during my entire reign. Even my very crown was not the gains of my own merit, but handed unto me by another.”
When the King started with this, those present were startled once again, and rightfully so. To speak of one’s shortcomings publicly is akin to political suicide. If the King himself were to actually say this, the authority of the Royal Family could be greatly hampered.
But that wasn’t why the nobles were so rightfully startled, it was the fact that the King, the weak King, the puppet king without any strengths, abilities, allies, or pull within the court, was speaking. Something that he had never done within the lifetimes of almost every noble within the court. One almost forgets that the King himself is but fourteen years younger than Lord Isaac, his reign of forty six years makes it that Gideon was the only real image of a King any of the nobles had ever known. Silent, sitting upon a throne like an ornament as others ran the Kingdom and managed politics around the throne’s authority. Like a statue, he had sat upon the throne, becoming one with the background, fading from the attention of almost everyone as time went on. His presence invoked neither fear, nor respect, it was merely there.
The second the King started talking, you can surely bet that the nobles were wide awake by now.
“But, even if I myself am weak, I have lived during the same era as some of the greatest minds of our proud nation.
I have seen the entire rise of the man we all can know as Lord Isaac Kaylock. From the very moment my father saw that man as a boy, he once mentioned to me that he wished that boy was his own. A rather harmful thing to say to a child I assure you.
The moment that boy rose to the head of that once declining great house, my father recognized his abilities with great enthusiasm. The King once known as the Talent Farmer, who saw no boundaries between the lowest of nobility to the highest branches of the great houses so long as one had the talent.
For over fifty years now I have reigned. House after house of new monsters have sprung up as if sparked by that day when he took to the reigns.
Lord Dorian, master of masons, and head of the Mortcombe family knows this quite well. Not since their founder has there been such a master mason capable of seeing the building of a castle from start to finish. The Mortcombe family has had its hand in the development of every city and every castle. Dorian, you were born into one of the branch families, yet you stand as its head due to your abilities being noticed by the very same man.
The steward’s academy, the merchant guild’s grande association, the King Cities.
Reforms to the written and spoken language, to our very culture, new minting processes that no longer involve smashing metal with a hammer, prosperity, development, happiness, order, and a stability like never before.
All of these things, and not a single one was the design of my wisdom, nor the sweat of my own brow.
I have contributed nothing at all to this new age that was born around me, but I have seen it all. I have reigned over this Kingdom through this entire age of development, of enlightenment and progress. I am old, very much so.
I held off on having children until I grew older so that they could bare the burden longer after I was gone.
I’m no genius, nor am I brave, but I am neither a fool, nor a craven just the same. If I have anything to my name as a King, it is my experience gathered over watching this great era of ours.
Those who led this age did it under my watch as King, my eye’s tuned to the abilities and tendencies of those great people. I have had many, many years to study their actions after all.
My eyes have been tried and tested, tens, of hundreds, of thousands of times, gazing down upon this chamber and many others as both you, and your ancestors toiled away around me.”
The King paused again, his tired gaze slowly turned towards the door, then slightly upward as if looking back in time.
No one spoke, the King, who was nearly impossible to think of during their day to day life, had suddenly sparked a sense of wonder. Where was he going with this?
They had never honestly considered the King, but he was truly the only King they had ever known. His reign was surely in the midst of fifty or more years by now, or even longer, who truly knew the age of this old King. His reign was longer than most nobles were years old, though this was mostly due to the plagues of years past.
When one considered old people with wisdom, it is hard to not just default to thinking of Isaac before all others. The King was always just a figurehead to them, always behind someone else who was using his authority as their own. From Lord Isaac, to Minister Abraham or First Princess Sophia, the king had never been outspoken or used his own authority. He never went anywhere, he never did anything, as if a figure merely standing within the test of time, he remained sat upon that throne. Everything decided for him, done without his aid, completed under his name.
Ever since Minster Abraham passed away ten years prior, it had always been the King’s daughter, Sophia, who had made the decisions. When one considers how a nine year old was making the decisions for a man of almost fifty years, it is easy to understand how the King was merely an object sat atop a throne to them. No one ever truly focuses on a puppet, perhaps the one who made the puppet and if there is one to inherit said puppet, but after enough time passes, one’s attention moves elsewhere. Who would ever think that the King wouldn’t just pass on the decision to his eldest son right off the bat as was his way. A single gesture, a nod, or even keeping his eyes closed for several seconds, that was what the king would normally do.
In reality, not even Heraldr considered the idea that his father would speak, even less so that he would speak so seriously or even have an expression on his face. The father that he knew was merely the man who gave birth to him and restored the almost extinct Lovett family.
But, the old king truly did speak, and it was that fact alone that drew such attention.
“I have never seen that man sweat before…”
A single sentence, but one that carried a great weight.
The King was saying, ‘In my long life that was always surrounded by the movements of Isaac, never once was he worried to the extent that he would sweat’.
They had simply pushed that previous incident to the recess of their minds. They believed that Lord Isaac would simply deal with it as always.
The King’s words shattered this rather complacent line of thought.
If THAT Isaac was concerned to such an extent, it had long since stopped being a simple matter.
But no one noticed, a single line of information that had been unintentionally included into that statement.
Though, if they had picked up on such a piece of information, it would be the nobles themselves who would be sweating...
...how could the King have seen Isaac sweat, unless he was still watching when Isaac had been brought down to the ground by that woman.
He was still watching, his gaze was unbroken the entire time. The shock that had nearly taken the minds of almost every noble, the peak of society, failed to imprint itself upon Gideon.
[NH Chapter 13 - END]