ALLEGIANCE: BLOOD OF KINGS
CHAPTER 1: PRINCE
There was a knock on the door.
“We’ve got a problem my lordship. Best if ya come and take a look.”
“Get Patrick, I’m busy!”
“Lord Patrick is the problem sire. He’s send me up here to get ya.”
“What! Ah… Ahhhh…. Hold on, I’m coming.” Erik shouted. “Get off me will ya, didn’t you hear what said!”
“Dammnit, what about me!” Marie shouted.
“I could get William out there to keep ya warm,” the prince grinned, rolling the buxom wench to the side so that he could put on his pants.
“I said I’m coming! Jesus, it’s not the end of the world.” Erik replied, tucking his shirt tails into his pants. Turning around, he planted a kiss on the lips of his pouting mistress.
“I was only joking Marie. Here, help yourself to some wine,” he said, unlocking the cabinet to his private collection with the key around his neck.
Instantly, Marie’s frown changed into a smile. She loved wine, almost as much as she loved the prince. “So same time tomorrow, m’lord?” she asked as the poured herself a goblet.
“No, you stay below. The archbishop is coming to visit, so the nobles will be having dinner in the great hall. Can’t have them gossiping about their prince now, can we?”
“Oh, alright then,” she said in mock disappointment, “I’ll just wait until they’re all asleep.”
“You little devil,” Erik grinned, giving her a playful squeeze before opening the door.
“Come quickly m’lord. Lord Patrick said it’s a matter of utmost urgency. He…” Suddenly, William forgot what he was going to say. He was looking at Marie standing beside the cabinet, stark naked except for the wine in hand.
“For heaven’s sake, show a little decency Marie.” Erik shouted as he looked back. Then, with a mighty swing of his hand, he struck William with a stinging blow across the face. “And you boy, need to learn how to keep your eyes in front when you’re addressing royalty.”
“Yes m’lord, apologies m’lord.” William replied anxiously. “Lord Patrick asked to speak to you sire. He said it’s very important.”
“Well, send a messenge then.” Erik answered, still annoyed by his uncle’s late-night interruption.
“Afraid not m’lord, Lord Patrick says it’s for your ears only. I told him that you were well… occupied, but he insisted on speaking to you and no one else.” William explained, as he led Erik through the glittering carpeted hallways of the palace.
Erik looked up at the portraits of his father and all the great kings before him, hanging silently on the walls, casting judgmental eyes on those walking below. Even in death, he could feel the disapproving glare of his father upon him, reminding him constantly that the right to rule was earned, not given.
Erik hated that man. Even on his deathbed, he had choice words for his only son, deeming him unfit to rule. With his final breathe, he had denied Erik’s claim of birthright and appointed Patrick as Regent-King. Until the day Patrick saw fit to return the rightful bloodline to the throne, Erik was forever going to be just a prince. That is until today.
“Soon father. Soon I will show you what a king I am destined to be.”
William caught Erik eyeing the portraits of the great kings. With a smile, he said to Erik, “You come from a long line of champions m’lord, the people will be grateful to have their rightful king back on the throne. Maybe with you as our king, we have a chance of beating those barbarians back to the north.”
Erik smirked. He knew William was merely flattering him to make up for his previous transgression. Still, he liked being addressed as the king. And unlike the cowardly Patrick, he was going to lead his army north and bring the fight to the tribes themselves. The time for useless talk and diplomatic pandering was over.
“This way m’lord.” William said, leading Erik down a spiraling stairs.
“Wait, isn’t Lord Patrick’s room this way?” Erik asked, pointing straight ahead . All the great houselords resided in the east wing of the top floor while the royal family stayed in the west.
“It is sire. But I’ve been instructed to bring you down to the treasury. Lord Patrick is there waiting for you.”
“On the verge of death, and the man wants to look at gold?” Erik chided. “No wonder nobody respects that man.”
“I can’t say my lord, but he ordered the servants to carry him down. He’s there now with the royal treasurer and paymaster.”
Erik followed Patrick down the marbled stairs. He has never gone below the earth to view the royal treasury before. But he imagined it would be a great room brimming with gold and silver from the spoils of war and the collection of taxes. Maybe Patrick wanted him to know exactly how much his kingdom is worth.
Down they went, passing several levels of brightly lit hallways, where the ministers, advisors and other important members of the palace household stayed. There were no carpeted flooring or paintings here. But at least the marbled flooring continued from the staircase here.
Another level down, and they arrived at the great dining hall. A massive crystal chandelier dominated the middle of the room, bathing the cavernous ballroom in glowing light. Every morning, servants would climb up and walk along the precarious gangways, using long tools to shine the crystal and replace the candles.
Intricate tapestries hung from the walls, depicting scenes of magnificent armies celebrating glorious victories. Alongside them, hung the coat of arms of the various noble households, cumulating in the symbol of the shield and the white stag above a pair of golden sword. It was the family crest of house Anders, leader of the twelve houses, and rightful rulers of the realms of Aspher.
But not was not the time to bemoan the fortunes of the rightful heir. Down they went again, as marble walls gave way to stone and mortar. Here were the palace kitchens, where hundreds of cooks slaved away all day, preparing an endless stream of meals for the palace household and the multitudes of serfs.
One more flight down was the servant quarters. This was the deepest part of the castle that Erik had ever gone, led by lustful thoughts and the stirring in his loins, to seek out the comforts of Marie or any other willing maid in their cramp and musty rooms.
But still William beckoned for Erik to follow him down. Past the dungeons , past the winter stores and into the earth. Erik found it difficult to breathe in here, the air was stale, tasting of the dirt that surrounded him. But here, the stairs ended at a guarded gate. The two soldiers on duty came to attention immediately and opened the iron-wrought gate for the prince to pass.
Past the gate, was another room with nothing but bare walls. and a pair of heavy oak doors. William hurried ahead and swung them open, before stepping aside to let Erik into the royal treasury for the very first time in his life. It took all but three steps before Erik stopped just inside the door, his eyes growing wide with disbelief.
— End of Chapter One —