The Consul and the Crown

Author’s Note: Another vignette in my fantasy world. This particular scene I imagined to occur a short time before the events of my novel but will not be included as it introduces the Consul as an antagonist too early for my liking. It will bear some editing at some juncture but for the moment will do nicely if it sparks your interest…

The curly-haired corpse lay now in state, beneath the high arched ceiling of the great hall, carved with its many faces and friezes. Outside, the creaking of the Greatoak in the wind was met with the mournful blowing of horns and deep-throated pipes. A hush had fallen upon the city. Ever since the Oaklord’s son had passed.

Two figures, one dressed in simple robes – so dark a grey as they seemed black – while the other in mobile leather armour, stood near the head of the plinth they’d laid the body on. Servants bowed their heads as they hustled around the fringes of the hall but no-one disturbed the two in the centre.

‘How long did you say before Ordris arrives?’ asked the man in robes.

‘Not long now. The rangers report his barge was sighted on the Oakflow.’

‘Ensure his chambers are readied, I shall meet him at the docks with some retainers, but he must see me first, before he rests.’

‘He will not want to wait to see his heir.’

‘We shall walk and talk, I expect. The blow dealt will have been grievous and I must show my support for his pain.’

‘The princess will not wish it so,’ said the armoured man, in a tone that betrayed his dislike of the subject.

‘I would have her distracted at present. You can ensure that the guardsman they sent us is posted near her chambers?’

‘I can put words in ears.’

‘Good, perhaps the young man can… ease her pain. Meanwhile ensure that any scandal is noted by the other men.’

‘They’re likely to be wary of him. It’s likely he trained with some of their retinue.’

‘Perhaps once, but no more. The Princess’ Guard have been deployed to the northern front, I expect she’ll have greenshanks in tow for this visit of state. Afterall,’ the robed man smiled, ‘what has the Oaklord to fear from his most trusted ally in his most stalwart bastion.’

‘More than they know,’ the armoured man looked around, tightening his grip around the pommel of the sword which rested, sheathed, at his side, ‘mi’lord should we talk so plainly? There may yet be ears with tongues to report to the Lord’s own spymasters.’

‘They have not breathed of my goings on yet, I see no reason that they would. You worry too much. As yet, we’ve done nothing illicit.’

‘What of the woman who held the knife. What of the tale her pretty, red lips could tell.’

‘I expect she’ll wash up somewhere soon,’ the man in black looked pointedly at his companion, ‘without the tongue to tell it.’

‘Intrigue abounds,’ muttered the armoured man, who stood a head taller than the other. His hooded, grey eyes wandered over the corpse whose unseeing eyes stared upwards, over the Lincoln green and gold shroud which covered the rest of the prince’s body up to his bared shoulders. He took a step closer and was followed by the main, both of them looking into the wide, unstaring eyes of the corpse. Perfumed or not, there was some fetid undertone of dead flesh which infected every inch of this vast room.

‘Do you not think we ought to close his eyes?’ asked the armed man.

‘No, my old friend, not at all. I want Seward to be hit with it all as he enters, I want him to feel the loss. On that thought, have some embalming oil spilt near the door. And have them bring the prince’s sword in and laid on his chest. Let’s remind the Oaklord that there’s a war going on.’

‘Very good, sir.’