The Field





"Love is whatever you can still betray."
-John LeCarre




[Editor’s Note: The following is a Carnivus Kickassius story from 2004. As I have been unable to write Halloween stories of my own this year (so far), I thought this would be a nice treat. - Hyperion]


THE FIELD





The Field lies at the very center—some would say the vortex—of the Five Forests. In reality it is one large forest, but travel in each direction and you will soon come to one of the fabled Five Kingdoms. Hence the Five Forests. But we were talking about the Field.

The Field—best I can tell—is not magical and holds no special properties. You might be forgiven for thinking it enchanted, though, as many great and terrible things have happened on here. If this Field could talk; how many stories would it tell? This is one of them.



THE PLAYERS:

THE COUNCIL
Cornelius
Chung Kuo (the Exiled Prince)
Donavencci

KNIGHTS OF THE REALM
Lazarus
Nefsky - the Human Tornado
Orythius - the Hunter


USURPERSRaven Stormcloud
Bartholomew the Bold (Black Bart)


THE ROYAL FAMILY
Queen Disa
The King




The King sits atop his war horse and surveys the Field. He is worried and anxious. Not six days past a mighty battle had taken place here, and though workers slaved day and night since then to clear it up, the once verdant grass is still stained red almost everywhere the eye looks.

That final battle lasted the better part of a day, but the war has gone on for four years; much longer than anyone would have guessed. That it will finally end—officially—this morning, out on this very same Field does not swell the King with pride or victory. If anything, he feels relief. The war has been so hard on his people. Now it is blessedly over, except for the final declarations. And that is why the King is uneasy.

He should feel calm. Both usurpers to the throne are set to arrive with an honor guard, but will not pose a military threat. The King should be quite protected. He reflects for a moment on these two false claimants who have torn his country apart:

Bartholomew the Bold (though some call him Black Bart) had once been one of the King’s closest friends. Along with Donavencci, the three of them had been inseparable since childhood. Then the day came when his beautiful wife Disa had tearfully told him how Bartholomew had tried to force himself on her. Black Bart had ridden out of the Castle one step ahead of the Headsman. He later mounted his claim to the throne on the ridiculous pretense that it was the Queen who had come on to him, and the King was wrongfully defiling his good name. Just the thought was still enough to make the King shake in rage; but better here and now then in the sequined tent for the formal Surrender. There the King must keep his rock-hard control.


Taking a last look around the Field the King gently boots his horse to a walk toward the mammoth tent sent up in the middle of the clearing. A dark shadow passes along the ground which makes the king look up at the bird; already now clearing the edge of the forest. The sight bids the King to think of the other usurper: Raven Stormcloud.

Raven was a woman with a beauty to make the gods weep, and a temper to match. The King first met Raven when he was still the Crown Prince and unbetrothed to Disa. What a sight the dark-haired girl had been, and how jealous Disa had been over it! The King still remembers the irony of the fight they’d had, with Disa angrily accusing him of preferring violent tempestuous women right before she threw a dish the size of a large dog at his head.

Later, when they were married, and King and Queen, Raven Stormcloud had visited on matters of state for her father, the King of the Sea. Raven’s behavior had been respectable—the King thought—but Disa didn’t see it that way and had loudly and publicly accused Raven of poaching. Raven Stormcloud had left in a huff and tempers couldn’t be quelled and…four years later here were are.

As the King nears the tent he slides off his charger and gives the horse a pat before the groom takes over. Bartholomew the Bold and Raven Stormcloud gave him fits for four years, but they are not why the King is uneasy today. It is the people waiting inside for him. Even now, with total victory so close at hand, the King fears betrayal.
Standing to greet the King when he enters the tent flap are the six members of his Council. On the left are his Castle Advisors. There is old and wise Cornelius, who has served the Realm for over sixty years; through 7 rulers. Cornelius has seen everything and though his hair might be white and his body wizened with age, his eyes and mind are still just as sharp.

There is Chung Kuo, the Exiled Prince from Sesostris. Though a foreigner, Chung Kuo’s counsel has been shrewd and timely since he arrived 8 years ago. There is also Donavencci, the King’s most staunch friend and supporter since they were children.

These three are indispensable and there should be no reason to doubt them. And yet…Disa has warned him about each of them in turn. Chung Kuo is not from here. Who knows what his long-term plans are? The King hears this many times; most people are at least slightly xenophobic. Yet when Disa says it…

She also whispers how Cornelius has fallen in love with Raven, and might be working with her. The King asked Cornelius straight out, and he admitted a fondness for the girl but he vowed he would never betray the Realm. Disa also informs the King that Donavencci has been secretly communicating with Bart, something Donavencci admits to but he says it was before the war and only to see their fractured friendship whole again. The King accepts this but it also makes him wonder.

On the King’s right are his three war-time generals, called the Knights of the Realm. There is Orythius; known as the Hunter. There is Nefsky; called by friend and foe alike the Human Tornado for the wide swathe he cuts in battles. 

Oldest of all is Lazarus. That is not his real name, but he’s been called that since a child; no one has ever been able to keep him down (a good trait to have in a general).

All these men are loyal and true but cracks have appeared in the wall. Little things that the King might have missed if Disa had not pointed them out. Lazarus missed a chance to kill Raven Stormcloud early on in the war. (He stoutly averred he would not shoot a fleeing woman in the back.) 

Nefsky receives hooded visitors at all hours of the night, the Queen tells him, and Orythius sometimes disappears by himself for days on end. It all adds up badly.

The King looks at his Council, all gazing back at him with small smiles or solemnity. The King can almost feel the jaws of the trap closing, but which one? If he guesses wrong…
The two usurpers arrive at the same time, though separately. This is the first time the King has laid eyes upon Bartholomew since he fled the Castle. Bart looks defeated but proud; with back straight and eyes clear. Raven…looks like she always looks; beautiful, wild and free.

When the two enter, the King surreptitiously looks at all six of his Council; seeing if their eyes give anything away. Not even a flicker. The ceremony begins, with the queen on his left and all six of his Council arrayed behind him in a fan; no way to watch them. The King’s only hope is that the other five would act if one of them moved. (Unless—and this is a disquieting thought—they are all in it together.)

Bartholomew the Bold and Raven Stormcloud sign their Surrender and bend knee to the King; showing they are supplicants and under his will. It is a satisfying moment for the King, and he is able to forget this worry of betrayal for a time as he is happy the war is over and he the victor.
It is at this moment that his heart feels a searing blaze. The Kings falls to the ground heavily and looks up. 

Everyone is moving at once. People are screaming, calling for guards. The queen is yelling about hidden archers while slipping a dripping dagger back up her sleeve. Disa—his beautiful Queen and the Light of his life—did this to him. And he never saw it coming.

Carnivus
August 10, 2004



I just realized how well the story goes with today's International Holiday. I so rock!

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