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Saturday, August 04, 2007

3.2.11.3. Cristophe's Princely Return Part 05

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If Talbott really intended to discredit him in front of the public, then the damage is already done. Chris somehow knows, but he keeps on smiling and plays along, taking care not to let his guard off all the way to the palace.
==oOo==
The Great Palace of Lourdes, Palace of a Hundred Towers, the center of authority and the core of sovereignty of the Empire of Arcadia is located right in the center of Myrcalia City. The whole complex itself is a multi-layered fortress full of the most sophisticated means of defense. Let’s say that an army of a million is attacking Lourdes. If they should breach the first layer, the thickest, highest towered walls in all Aurelia Continent, rivaled only by the Gates of Hell in Kraal’Thragon, they will be met by towering spike shield-walls in the great army assembly yard, surrounding them from three sides, showering them with oil, while fifty thousand archers shower them with fire arrows. This tactic was effective twice. It crushed Vordac’s ground army in an ultimate defense organized by Sage the Fireheart, and the Borgian vanguards led by Mildred Urganon.
This Moving Walls tactic, however, was breached three times, all by air units: Vordac’s harpies, wyverns, devils and winged demons, Borgian dragon-riders and the Freedom Fighters’ griffin-riders led by Antoine Deveraux. For this kind of trouble, Lourdes Palace also has the third layer of defense, namely the towers and ballistae to crush the air units, and traps and devices in the palace for intruders. But, no matter how formidable the defenses are, this place has witnessed a number of breaches made by the stealthiest and the most powerful individuals, namely Mildred and Mandrach Urganon, Antoine Deveraux and his party, Vordac and the heir of Vordac or whoever did the recent murder in this very palace.
These are the thoughts in Prince Cristophe’s mind as he enters the palace.
Cristophe and his friends walk straight towards the throne room, on the northern section of the palace. As they reach the stairs that leads right to the throne room, Chris stops into a freeze. An eerie thought is thumping inside his head.
It’s on the very throne my father sent me to Valanis, more like to my exile, and my brother, who looked at me with hate and blamed me because of mother’s death. And now, I must face them again. Alexis’ hatred is the same, no doubt about it, but what about father? Bailing me out from the custody in Valanis surely showed a change in him, but there’s go to be a catch behind it.
Yup, I better prepare for it and try my best to prove them that I’m much more that what I used to be. I won’t be a burden, a bane and a scapegoat, but someone who can be relied upon. Robert once said that to me, and now I will prove it to you, father, brother…
Then Cristophe walks again, taking step after step, climbing the one hundred and sixty three stairs solemnly. His friends also tag along. They really understand his plight and didn’t do anything to disrupt Chris’ struggle against himself. Carolyn only sighs in relief on seeing Chris won that struggle and climbs forward, not going back.
Finally Chris reaches the top. As he lifts up his face to look straight forward, a massive, big door opens for him. Cold sweat rolls on his forehead, and he walks on, prepared for all possibilities.
There, in the throne room, Chris looks around. The audience session is not over yet, with the ministers and palace officials sitting on their places. The left side is for military officers, and the right side is for civil officers.
On the farthest end, the Emperor of Arcadia sits high on his throne with the Crown Prince Alexis sitting one tier lower than his father, and a giant crest of the red-silver eagle hanging behind them.
Emperor Sage the Fourth, also known as Marcus Deveraux, direct descendant of Fireheart is indeed a stalwart warrior in his late fifties. His thick eyebrows, beard and long hair are all red, typical among the Deveraux family. His face shows ambition and desire for power, yet also a fair level of wisdom like his predecessors. His body is stout, broad and muscly, built and deterioarated at the same time during his wars against Lore – Arcadia’s rival kingdom. His eyes peer down like an eagle in the sky, searching for its prey on the ground. And as he finds one, the Emperor talks loudly like a rumbling waterfall, reverberates in the entire hall.
‘Stop right there. Step no farther on the account of your insolence! How dare you come, barging into here without waiting for my summon?!’
Chris was shocked to hear that. Didn’t I dispatch a soldier to inform the Emperor of his coming, and one more time when I reached the palace? Oh, of course they’re all Talbot’s men, and I’ve been away since I was little. No wonder I didn’t realize about this loophole in the palace protocols.
With that thought Chris kneels right on the spot, awaiting his punishment. He doesn’t want to argue with his stern father.
‘And who told you to kneel? Your repeating insults ruined my day! But, as you’re a Prince of Arcadia, I chose to be lenient. You will receive no food for the next two days so you’ll remember it. Leave this hall right now and don’t ever come without my summon again, or the consequences will be… severe. GO!’
Emperor Sage lowered his head and put his knuckle to support it. That’s his habit whenever he’s furious or greatly disturbed. Chris stands up slowly. His eyes are met with Alexis’, and the Crown Prince shows his smile of satisfaction and stare of utmost hate. Chris ignores it and turns back, walking out of the throne room. His friends also follow suit although they were not scolded. Now the humiliation is complete. Cristophe and his friends are now outcasts, and they must always stay low and confined in the golden cage called the Lourdes Palace.
The Emperor’s face and position are unchanging after they’re gone. Alexis and Talbot glance at each other, exchanging cold smiles.
==oOo==
‘What kind of father is he? Chris didn’t have a chance at all to greet his own father, not a single word!’ says Iris in an angry tone.
‘Maybe that’s the way they teach their children in Deveraux family since the days of Fireheart,’ Andreas tries to console his friends. ‘No room for softness. All is about discipline and achieving goals.’
Bernides, who spent quite a long time with the royal family of Arcadia comments, ‘That’s partly true, but they also show respect in everything they do. This Emperor, Marcus, however, seems omitting the “respect” part. He humiliated his own son in front of the ministers and generals.’
‘Not to mention putting Chris into a “protocol trap”. We thought he has summoned us when we walked upstairs, but he told us he didn’t!’ says Carolyn with gritted teeth. ‘That majestic uncle of mine smeared his own face and hid it with a mask.’
‘Hmpf. That means no matter we’re doing right or wrong, the Emperor will make it so. The right is wrong if he says it’s wrong, vice versa,’ says Iris with a grunt.
‘Well, we can’t blame him too much. Anyway, we did come in disgrace,’ says Bernides, shrugging. ‘Right, Chris?’
But Chris walks on in front of them without a response. Seeing Chris in that bitter state, his friends fall silent at once. Just then, a palace attendant comes after them.
‘Prince Cristophe, Your Highness…’
Cristophe stops and turns fully around, then says,
‘Proceed.’
‘Your Highness, I bring a message from the Emperor, for your eyes only.’
The attendant hands Chris a piece of rolled parchment. Chris opens it, reads the message and gives his answer.
‘Yes, I’ve read it and will do. That’s my answer to Your Majesty.’
Bowing low, the attendant takes his leave. Chris turns to his friends, saying,
‘You guys just go first. I’ll catch up later; there’s something I must do. Father Bernides will show you to your rooms.’

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