The king stood alone on the battlefield surrounded by scores of dead Black-Wings. The bodies of countless dead Vampires, Dragon-Wings, Succubi and Incubi littered the brown and red stained earth, and Qasin found himself truly happy for once. No soldiers were lost. No men were killed. My kingdom is safe, the battle is won and not a single life has been lost–save for these poor wretches.
“Well fought, Your Majesty,” Anthony said as he approached the man, still admiring his handiwork.
“This was only one piece of the puzzle. We’re not here to win a war; we’re here to win peace and an ally,” the king responded. “Now, fetch me a towel.”
“I’m not sure slaughtering them by yourself is the right way to go about it.” Anthony squirmed as he stepped over the dead bodies. He does that a lot. One thousand and thirty-five men died because of this fool’s betrayal, and yet he squirms and twists at the sight of blood? Pathetic.
“I couldn’t move my own troops. It would have given them a hole in our defensive line to attack through,” he reasoned, taking the towel from the messenger and wiping the sweat off his face before using it to clean the blood off his swords. “This was the only way.”
“I meant, I don’t think it’s in your best interest to kill them. It’ll be harder to convince them to ally with you if you have just slaughtered their men.”
“A man is unlikely to sell his house when his finances are good and stable. He must either experience a windfall or a loss. A windfall will promise them greener pastures than their home currently offers, and the loss will make them look for fixes wherever there are fixes to be made. In terms of a kingdom, there is no true windfall. Kings don’t often sell land to acquire more of it. That leaves me only one option–to hand them a loss.”
“Your Majesty is saying that their kingdom is the house, and you mean to have them sell it?”
“You could say that.”
“But what if you die in battle? Would that not be dire for the kingdom?” Anthony asked.
“It’s not likely. The Black-Wings were fearsome on the field because of their ruler, the Black Dragon, who united them in ages past. The fools, in their brilliance, deposed him. Now, their strongest is no tougher than the capital’s knights. They are ruled by a council of baby whelps: Vampires and Incubi.”
They deposed him at the same time I was supposed to be deposed. I haven’t received word yet, but it seems they also deposed the axe-king around that time too. Were all the monarchs supposed to fade into oblivion at the same time? Were we, who forged the kingdoms and united our races, to die at the hands of the very people we serve? All so that a few people could gain power at the cost of hundreds of lives?
“Then why does Your Majesty wish them to be an ally?”
“Because I cannot be everywhere at once, and I might be deposed myself one day. Before that happens, I must unite these lands until the only wars it sees are silly merchant conflicts over lumber prices.”
“I understand. Then I shall pray to the god of war for your success in battle.”
“Thank you. Now, about the Black-Wing messenger the Council was using to conduct their dirty business. . . Did you manage to locate him?”
“Yes, Your Majesty. I can arrange a meeting at your convenience.”
“Good. Set up a rendezvous at the end of the week. Pick one of their border towns to do it in, some place a few days east of where we are now. I need to hand them a few more losses before we meet. Also, arrange for the scouts to finish the report on the White-Horns. It’s urgent that I am brought up to speed before the meeting.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Anthony said, bowing before he departed. The king had grown accustomed to only talking through Anthony as of late. Given how many soldiers and guards in the capital must have known something of the Council’s plans, and none had reported anything, he was slowly starting to distrust everyone. But not Anthony. With the man’s daughter and wife held conveniently under his protection, he knew he could trust Anthony no matter how spineless the poor boy turned out to be.
He started walking east to where the next battlefield awaited him–where he could kill again. He had suppressed his smile while Anthony was around–it wasn’t very kingly after all–but the thought of the upcoming fight brought it back to his face. I will kill them and spare my people. I will murder them so that my men will never have to die for petty politics again. If I kill enough of them, my kingdom will never see its armies march to their deaths again.