Larks and swallows soared through the hot air, their cries reflecting off of the marble pillars and granite walls of the royal palace. Cypress trees lined the pathways covered with pebbles in red and brown shades. The place was a refuge, peace and quiet was ordained here on the explicit orders of the person who just appeared from an archway inlaid with black and green obsidian and carved with images of war and conquest.
The man wasn’t young, yet in spite of the thick grey hair sprouting from his strongly featured head, did not appear old. As if there was some sort of agelessness clinging to him, like the perfume of an old lover. He was tall, and with broad shoulders. His arms were adorned with thick golden braces of pure gold, yet simple in style; a mixture of wealth and modesty. The colour of his tunic, which was purple, betrayed his true identity for those who were unacquainted with the man himself. Servants made way as he passed and guards jumped to attention, bringing a customary salute.
“My king,” the voice hailed from a man practically leaping next to the giant, his small frame had obscured him from sight. He had the hair and neck of a plucked chicken. “As chairman I implore you to reconsider. It is unwise to-”.
The big man spun around, revealing the ever more developing gut that men seem to grow in time of peace. “I have had enough of your whining, Bebolos. Don’t be a grouse. You know I love you, but stop your incessant babbling.” King Paleon’s grey eyes settled on the smaller man’s face. “The decisions are made.”
“But the international landscape does not-”
“Bebolos. Let the harpies take you!” Paleon slightly pushed against the chairman’s shoulder which staggered backwards a little. The tone of the royal voice was purely frustration and fatigue, not anger. “We have had session from yesterday’s noon till today’s. I have only had one meal in that time and no sleep.” Difficult matters of state had preoccupied the hall of the council in the Dome. Several knots had to be untied and if necessary cut. Paleon was hungry, tired and annoyed. He knew Bebolos meant well, but the man had stalked him through the streets back to the palace and had followed him into the royal garden, thereby violating the unwritten law. “Go home, eat and rest and let me do the same.”
For a moment Bebolos thought of retorting once more, but as Paleon’s eyes and mouth grew stern he reconsidered. The chairmen took a long breath and scratched his dimpled, pointy chin. “I shall schedule the next session tomorrow evening, Majesty.”
Paleon breathed a sigh of relief, turned heel and strolled off through his garden, wetting his head with some water of a fountain carved as women and dolphins - a tribute to Yasmus, goddess of love and lust. As the waves of his mind calmed, he started for his chambers, only to find his son waiting at the colonnade giving way to the royal quarters. “Oh by the Gods! Not you too Andros.”
“You can’t expect me to attend a session like this and then not object to what is decided.” Andros was as tall as Paleon with the same muscular frame, yet less pronounced. Where the king was bulky and brawny, Andros seemed to be more graceful and refined. It was only normal when one was told to be the best in everything all his life. Paleon and Andros were both aware that the Prince had much to thank his king and father for. However, they were also both aware, and grimly so, this prevented them for having a warm, caring relationship as father and son.
“Speak your mind then, if you must.” The royal braced arms were folded before the broad royal thorax.
“Provoking Tursia is premature. I know you have waited to assert dominance in the Narrow Sea once more. I agree we need to redefine the margins of power in the world, but caution is necessary.”
“Our agents inform us Old Tursia is divided.” After Cleon’s conquest of the ancient super power, he installed Tursian governors as satraps. However, they quickly showed their treacherous nature and so Herochan dignitaries were assigned instead. As Cleon passed from this world and parted for the next, the Turnusid dynasty seized control. “Orestes Turnus is a young fool, alienating his own people in exchange for Eastern decadence. Ignoring the Herochan people is ample reason for striking at him.” Paleon spat on the ground, gracing it with royal spit.
“Divided is not torn. Nor can we hope to tackle the Tursian beast on our own.” It was clear the prince was hoping his father would see reason.
“Ha. You’ve always been too clever and witty for your own good.”
A flashing smile crept on Andros’ visage, it more than once had disarmed a female member of court. “I’ve been told that in the past.” The moment of warmth between father and son passed quickly, fluid like a droplet. King and heir-apparent they were again.
“You say we need allies.” Paleon concluded, squinting his eyes as he ran over the options in his head. The Herochan king was a very proud man and perhaps asking for aid would come across as a sign of weakness. In turn it might provide the troublesome Thrapelans bristling in the south to attempt and throw off the diplomatic shackles Herocha bound them in.
Andros nodded. “Aye.”
“We have Tharcinia on our side. Sartiochus has proven a loyal friend in the past. And I know Macarius well. The old ironside.” A grin revealed Paleon’s still nicely formed teeth.
“He is situated closely to the Tursian border. When the storms breaks, who knows which side he will sway?”
His son raised a valid point, Paleon had to admit. “He is yet unmarried. An opportune marriage might prove advantageous to our cause.” The king noticed the approving nod of his son and felt an ember of pride flare up. Soon enough he would be confident in the knowledge Andros would make a fine king. “Do you at least agree on the decision concerning the Cadurioi?” he finally asked.
“Barbarians, yet not without honour or promise.” Recently the tribes to the north and east had gained some form of centralised government. Though most Herochans still considered them uncivilised and uncouth the Cadurioi were on the road towards a defined state. “They might indeed be steered in the right direction.”
Paleon felt the sun burning on his head, as if there was no hair between it and his skull; battering heat like a ram at the gates. A headache had been forming during the conversation with his son and he felt somewhat ill. “Age and fatigue seem to creep up on me. I need food, a drink and then a bed to recover.” It hurt to admit.
Something that might have passed as worry flashed over Andros’ face, yet it vanished as fast as a startled deer. “Of course, but we are agreed then? We bide our time first and send out emissaries instead of taking a lunge at the lion’s throat.”
The king felt light-headed and simply nodded, his mouth deformed into an obstinate sneer. He would not give into these mild discomforts. He was Paleon Paleonid after all, saviour and preserver of Herocha.
“I will make the arrangements, father.” Andros motioned for two members of the household guard to escort the king to his chambers and foresee in nourishment and rest. “Let no one in until the king has left his quarters or I say so.” The guardsmen nodded and removed the curtains from before the passageway where Andros had intercepted his weary majesty.