LIAB Text 9
In every reign there comes one night of greatest blackness, when a King must send away his court of flatterers and servants, and sit alone in the dark with the beast called truth.
In the gloom of the grand hall, Slately could hear it breathe.
Truth at court was treated as if it were a precious commodity. It was hoarded, coveted, bartered for. Certainly this analogy applied to lies; his courtiers accepted his lies as currency of the realm. He handed them lies in large denominations, and they returned him his change in small ones.
Oh, but truth was something different. Something alive and immortal. By light of day it was only a little butterfly: pretty, elusive, easily crushed and utterly unable to defend itself. Most nights, too, it slept harmlessly. One could wave it away for a very long time.
But on the nights it did not sleep, neither did the King.
Slately slumped in his throne, his fists crossed over his chest beneath his ermine cape. Statues of fallen Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses stared down at him from the eaves. They were his only companions. They, and the truth beast, and an empty bottle of his best brandy. All were cold comfort.
Here came this beast to his city walls, to his chamber door. Here returned the Arkenpliers to the city which had so long kept them truly and well.
Why, Titans? This cannot truly be your will. Test our worth, if you must. But we shall rise to it, I so swear!
When he had allowed his son to take the Arkenpliers into battle, he had hoped the Prince would prove his mettle, that the Titans would allow Ansom to master their artifact. He did not expect this result, this opposite, this truth.
This was the truth that had destroyed poor Bea. It would crash down upon his city, and if the city did not stand, then the whole world would likely end.
And yet, try telling that to these cretins on other thrones. These Royals In Name Only.
He knew what Dickie meant to do. Haggar had surely sent her armies not as rescuers, but as scavengers. He knew it, but he did not fear. Why give a care for a horsefly, when the horse is charging?
And Don. Don was never a model Royal at the best of times: ever so mercenary, ever so informal. He had given up on even having a Royal line of succession for an inexcusably long time.
Well, at least he had finally relented on that. After Gobwin Knob and many, many talks, Don was at last coming around to a proper view of things. Slately could only hope it was not too late.
And yet, what did Don King send to Slately's aid? A handful of spy bats, and this...woman.
Oh, she was a Queen. That he could not deny. But she was surely the worst that ever lived. She was every bit the Barbarian who had knelt before his throne and stammered out her ignorance. Revolting.
A Queen. And she might prove useful. He simply refused to place his hopes upon her.
No, his hopes as always lay with his sons. Proud Ossomer would stand tomorrow at the bridge, with clever, flighty Tramennis beside him. They would hold back that Demon thing shaped like his lost Ansom, at least long enough for the King to shame old Dickie into joining the fray. This fight could be won. This truth had not yet sent him to the Hall of the Mountain King for judgement.
"Do you hear me, beast?" he blurted. His brandy-muddled words echoed around the columns and statues, and rained back down upon him from the vaulted ceiling. "We could win!"
But the beast still lurked in the dark, breathing, breathing.