King Gorion returned to the queen’s chamber quietly. He sat down next to her fragile figure bent over the couch and her face buried inside a pillow. He caressed her back gently. “My queen, I bear you good news. Ayron is safely on his way.”
The queen sat up and clung onto him helplessly. “We’ll never see him again, my darling son. We’ll never see him again!” Tears flowed from her eyes like a fresh stream.
King Gorion wrapped his arms around her delicate shoulders. “Do not let despair overtake you. Do you remember the words of Prophet Faibius? Ayron will return unharmed with an army of valiant soldiers.”
“Your Majesty, I believe in God’s Prophets with all my heart.” The queen sobbed. “But one day in the Valley of Lolaville is like a year in the rest of the world. We will be in our graves by the time he returns.”
“My dearest Nymphna, the passage of time in the Valley of Lolaville is but a legend, for no more than three months passed while I stayed there with you.”
“My king, it takes more than a month for a well-trained soldier to go there by the shortest route. But Ayron doesn’t know the way, neither has he ever travelled alone. I can’t help but imagine the worst of him…”
“Come, do not lose sight of hope, for God is able to do all things.” King Gorion looked at the queen tenderly. “Behold, Ayden is still with us, we haven’t lost everything.”
“But what of Ayden? Will his life be free from trouble with Noam on the throne?” The queen answered bitterly. “My boys, my poor boys. I wish I could take their place and endure their pain.”
“Such is their destiny determined by God long ago. These hardships will strengthen their character.” King Gorion held the queen’s delicate hands and gazed into her eyes with unspeakable sorrow. “I wish I could have given you a better life here. Your father was right, it would’ve been better for you to stay with him.”
“No, my king.” The queen put her index finger to his lips gently. “Please don’t say such words. The days I’ve spent here with you were the happiest days of my life!”
King Gorion held the queen’s hands to his face and kissed them, then he declared to her. “My fair Nymphna, the Princess of the Zuries, I swear to you in the name of God that Ayron shall sit on my throne one day as the king of Orr and…” The king was alarmed by a loud knocking at the door. “Who’s there?”
“I hope I’m not interrupting here.” The door flung open and Noam forced his way into the room. His scrawny body could barely carry the weight of his elaborate royal robe.
Mr. Dulles followed him into the room. “Your highness, please allow your servant to announce your arrival.”
“There’s no need for that, I’m the king’s brother!” Noam lifted his voice and strode towards the king and queen defiantly.
King Gorion protected the queen with his strong arms. “Noam, need I remind you that it is a great offence to enter the queen’s chamber without permission.”
“Yes, my dear brother, I’m fully aware of the laws of our kingdom,” Noam sneered.
“Then why do you still commit such an offence?”
“Why? Why even ask such a question? Isn’t there more between us than the Law of our kingdom? Why is it that you mention the Law against me every time I commit a small offence? I’m beginning to think that you’ve never considered me as family, but as one of your unfaithful servants.” Noam glanced at Mr. Dulles.
“Noam, you must understand our responsibilities as members of the Royal Family,” King Gorion explained patiently. “Nonetheless, we must abide by the same Laws as all of our people. We are not above them…”
“Why are you repeating the same speech again?!” Noam interrupted, his face red with fury. “I’ve already heard it a million times! I had to live under your shadow since the day we were born. A mere ten minutes determined who was right and wrong for forty-seven years!” He glared at King Gorion viciously. “But everything is going to change today, on MY birthday!”
“Please calm yourself, Noam. There is no need to get angry over the things which are outside of our control.” When King Gorion saw the golden silk scroll in Noam’s right hand, his heart skipped a beat. “What have you come for?”
“Now you ask the right question.” Noam’s anger turned into a satisfactory grin, his thin lips became a line under his grey moustache. “I’ve come to arrest you, for the offence of high treason, and the murder of Prince Ayron, the heir to the Royal Throne.” He unrolled the golden silk scroll and held it in front of King Gorion. “This trustworthy servant of yours has reported to me that you commanded Ayron to jump off the Rock of Prayer to take his own life. Is that true?”
“Mr. Dulles?” King Gorion glanced at Mr. Dulles in bewilderment and rose from the queen’s couch. “I did ask Ayron to jump off the Rock of Prayer, but I did not ask him to take his own life. What else did this trustworthy servant of mine reveal to you?”
“Your Majesty, let us not argue over fine details, which have little pertinence to the outcome of the matter.” Noam glanced at Mr. Dulles, who stood next to him quietly with his head down. “He also told me that you made up a rather peculiar story, that Ayron would be saved by a mythical creature.” He scratched his balding head with his knobby fingers, then pointed them at King Gorion. “Do you take all your subjects and family for naïve children like your son? Now your eldest son is dead, and YOU are the murderer!” He screamed in his brother’s face.
King Gorion was not disturbed by his brother’s foul manners. “Have you any proof of Ayron’s death?”
“Proof. Proof? Proof! Did I hear that right?! Hahahahahahahahahaha!” Noam laughed hysterically, revealing his crooked and discoloured teeth. “You are asking for proof of the death of one who has fallen from the Rock of Prayer? Do you really think me foolish enough to send troops down the Cliff of Death to search for a dead body?”
“Are you saying that you don’t have proof that Ayron is dead then?”
“It’s a FACT that anyone who falls off the Cliff of Death is dead! There is no need to prove that in the courts of our kingdom, even the foolish commoners have such knowledge!”
“Very well then, we shall settle this in court. What of high treason are you accusing me of?”
“You have betrayed our kingdom into the hands of our enemy, the Hermonions. Have you not been informed that the Hermonion armies have entered the outer curtain wall and captured our castle?”
King Gorion held his composure, though his body shivered. He saw the blazing hatred in his brother’s icy blue eyes. “Noam, why have you plotted this treacherous deed against me?”
“Congratulations, my dear brother! You’ve finally solved the mystery,” Noam mocked. “But I’m afraid it’s a little too late, because everyone in our kingdom knows that only the king has the power to open the gates of the Marvelous Castle.”
“It is a small matter for you to take away the throne from me, but why have you brought this great disaster on our people?”
“This is where our opinions differ,” Noam growled in anger. “Our people will certainly not think of it as a great disaster to become part of the Hermonion Empire. They will praise me for my exceedingly wise decision! Have you not heard of how they took control of all our alliances in the north? We would be a kingdom of corpses if we resisted their power!”
“I understand your fear for the great Hermonion people, but we have a well-trained army prepared for this very battle. The Marvelous Castle is impenetrable!” King Gorion reasoned with Noam. “We must not surrender our kingdom and make our people their slaves! Let’s talk about this matter sensibly.”
“Do you have time for me now? After I’ve captured your kingdom with a foreign army? Then let us negotiate terms that would be beneficial to BOTH of us!” He raised one of his thin grey eyebrows and glanced at the queen and Mr. Dulles. “I’m afraid this conversation is not fitting for the ears of women and servants.”
“Let’s go to my study then, we can speak there without disturbance.”