” — So… you bring ill tidings from abroad, I hear.”
His sonorous voice sounded irritable beneath that gruff tone. Without much patience for introductions, the king had marched in, decked out in full armour as he addressed Blackblade. The dragon was made to stand in the middle of the throne hall, fully surrounded by the imperious display of power. The room dwarfed any who stood in the shadow of its colossal archways, columns and balconies. Even if Blackblade had been in his true form, his wings may have barely touched the edges of that hall. He was never one to feel small, even when he was a human. But the king seemed to be the only one who could truly fill the castle’s hall with his presence.
“These tidings –” He paused, feeling odd; the dragon warrior did not quite know what to do with his voice there. He felt like a legion could be placed in the space that seperated him from the king. Fortunately, any noise seemed to emit a resonant boom as it bounced around in that gigantic hall. He cleared his throat, and tried again, “Ahem. These tidings appeared to have enroached upon the land all by itself, your majesty.” That felt better. A baseline volume would do just fine.
“The king has no time to play coy, maverick! You will answer his majesty directly! He has no time for your detour of words.” The councilman – a mage, by Blackblade’s suspicion – seemed to spit his words out with a special kind of vehemence.
Blackblade looked at the man, feeling a slight pang of annoyance. The little runt had done everything in his power to counter this audience with the warrior king. Blackblade had spent weeks in the capital, trying to secure a chance to speak with the monarch without much success, and had a strong suspicion that the sweet words whispered to agents in the dark had significanty decreased his chances of doing so sooner. It had taken everything from him to not erupt into his full gargantuan form, and to simply crash through the domed ceiling overhead to land right in front of the throne itself. Luckily, his years of remaining dormant in his human guise had evidently assuaged his draconian temper as a result. He calmly responded, “Pardon, my king. I had hoped we could speak alone…”
“This is preposterous! The king does not simply take private council with some… some… oversized hermit who waddled up to the castle gates claiming to be have key information on the happenings in the eastern kingdoms!” Turning to his liege, the erratic mage continued his rant, “My king, I do not trust this man; claiming to be a simple traveller that had witnessed horrors unbeknownst to even our agents at the borders. Look at him! This brute could not possibly have seen the hardships of a long and arduous journey. The barbarian looks strong enough to pull half our guard down by simply the might of his own hands! You cannot offer your ear to this ruse sire. You must—“
“Calm yourself councilman! By the gods… you wail louder than that banshee of a court girl that left my chambers but two nights ago!”
Despite his apparent nonchalance, Blackblade bit back a chuckle. He had to give it to the high strung little wizard. He was persistent. And not completely in the wrong. Blackblade may have been dressed in simple garments, but they hung over a soldier’s body. Thick muscle pushed against the simple fabric making it very evident that he had indeed not been left to the scant provisions of the wilderness. Aside from that, he was tall, dark-haired, with intense steely blue eyes hooded by thick brows that probably made him seem imposing. In fact, the king was the only man in the room that possibly came close to matching him in size and stature. He must have seemed intimidating. And with a beard that mayhaps needed a slight trim, perhaps he did look like an oversized hermit. He was curious however, as to this apparent waddle in his gait… That was a fact that longed to be revised.
“My king, I implore you… We cannot allow the fabricated lies of this man to undo the delicate peace of the city. We must —“
The king, having long since seated himself on the throne, stood up suddenly, raising a hand before his thundering voice shook the hall. “WE… must not overstep itself to usurp the judgement that I will be making! You, will now leave us. I, will hear this man, as he shares his tale, and then decide how much of it is fabrication. Now go!”
The captain of the guard, an honourable man by all accounts – including Blackblade’s own – interjected then. “With due respect, sire. It is not safe to simply be left alone with this stranger. Even if– ”
“Then station your guard outside those doors, captain. Should our guest feel the need to push his luck, I am sure that he will bite your steel before he even thinks that he’ll be tasting victory. That is… if he can parry the blows that I will rain down on him first…”
Well, his confidence sure wasn’t lacking… The dragon warrior had to give a faint smile at that. He wondered how that rematch would go…
“Of course, your majesty.” With a single wave of his hand, the captain dismissed the guards, marching from the room in organised tandem. Last to leave was the council mage, who spared Blackblade one venomous glare before the doors to the throne hall closed, sending a deep echo through the domed hall as it shut.
The king slowly turned to regard him then. Walking down from the dais steps, he apprached the dragon warrior with much less of the regal slump he reserved for others who stood before him, as Blackblade did now.
“You tread dangerously by coming here, Halvadere.” Standing closer, the king had lowered his voice to negate the echo within the room. “For a dragon, I thought you’d be less conspicuous in the way you hide yourself. These damn wizards can smell an imposter a league away. But you are as damn stubborn as I remember! Subtlety has never been your strength.”
“Neither yours, old friend. Does the whole court know who warms your bed after battle?”
“Ah, but his wit has not been blunted…” The king was more sarcastic than playful. “Perhaps my councilman was right in thinking you were coy to come here… with your arrogant sense of familiarity. Stepping out as if from distant memory, like no time has passed at all. After years of irreverent quiet… To hell with you!” He was angry, that was certain. But tired. In all his fury, he was tired. Blackblade – the dragon known as Halvadere – looked upon his friend, weary from inner battles. A weariness that he had likely kept reserved when in the company of anyone else… save now for him. The dragon regarded his friend with empathy. Reserving himself to set the humour shared between old friends aside… he spoke more seriously, yet softly…
“Belatore… hell may be exactly where we are all headed, if we do not acknowledge the severity of the situation…”
“Damn your dismal predictions, dragon! I know of the movements in the east… reports have flooded in on that… that massacre…. If not for the attacks on other fronts, I would have long since rallied a strikeforce to beat those complacent fiends to the ground…”
“My friend, neither you, nor your most powerful cadre of imperial mages, could retailiate against those forces alone. Even if you had a horde of your skilled footmen at your back. Dark forces have risen again. Forces have stirred that have not done so in a century… and I am afraid they have not awoken from years of slumber to simply raze border outposts to the ground…“
Looking down at his sabatons, the king closed his eyes and sighed deeply. Weary from the weight of his crown – a rule that Blackblade doubted anyone would wish to wrestle away from him – king Belatore lifted his head, and with softer eyes regarded the dragon warrior. His friend. “Tell me then….”
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